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Path to Success
Three motivated men. Three small hometowns. Three thriving businesses.
Jay Molter, BSBA ’81
Jay Molter travels the world but still lives in Woodville, Ohio, where he spent his youth working the cash register in his father’s community pharmacy.
Jay Molter’s business degree from ONU turned into a ticket to worldwide adventures. Molter spends a considerable amount of time crisscrossing the globe, calling on Glasstech Inc. customers in more than 40 countries and six continents. “Growing up in a small town in Northwest Ohio, I never imagined I’d see the world,” he says.
Molter joined Glasstech right out of college, when the company was still in its infancy. For the last 30 years, he has played a key role in Glasstech’s rise to a worldwide leader in the glass processing market. Recently, Molter received a promotion to senior vice president of marketing and sales at Glasstech.
A privately held company based in Perrysburg, Ohio, Glasstech designs and manufactures industrial-size systems that produce tempered and bendable glass. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Glasstech first sparked innovations in the architectural and automotive glass industries. Molter recalls one of the company’s early milestones: selling a system to Chrysler to fabricate door glass for their K-car model.
Today, Glasstech leads the way in the solar-power industry with unique systems for shaping and strengthening glass to produce mirror blanks that capture and transfer the sun’s rays. “The solar-power market is growing fast, especially in China,” notes Molter. He adds that Glasstech’s success stems from its aggressive research and development strategies. The company, which operates with fewer than 100 employees, holds more than 600 patents.
Molter traces his interest in business to his boyhood and the summers he spent working the cash register and stocking shelves in his dad’s pharmacy. “Back then, you still had to do the math in your head,” he says with a laugh, recalling how he meticulously counted back change to each customer.
At ONU, Molter initially majored in pharmacy. He soon discovered that accounting and business suited him better. Yet he managed to continue his family’s pharmacy legacy by marrying a pharmacist. He met his wife, Terri (Henby), BSPh ’81, on campus in the spring of his freshman year.
Molter started out as a cost accountant at Glasstech. He transitioned into the marketing and sales group within a short time, after management recognized his special ability to relate to international customers. In 2006, Molter assumed leadership over the company’s entire sales and marketing efforts. His work requires him to be on the road more than half the time. He’s lost track of the many worldwide cities he’s visited calling on Glasstech’s global customer base.
Early in his career, Molter frequently traveled to Eastern Bloc countries under the former Soviet Union’s communist control. “I took my very first trip to East Germany,” he says. “I’ll never forget going through Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall.” He vividly recalls the heavily armed security forces using mirrors to check for bombs under the car. Often, he heard clicking noises while talking on the phone, a sure indication that his conversations were being recorded. These experiences, he says, prepared him for just about anything.
The China market now demands most of Molter’s time. Over the last two decades, he has witnessed China’s remarkable transformation into an economic powerhouse. During his first trips to Beijing, Molter saw people wearing gray, drab clothing and using bikes for travel. Today, he finds himself stuck in huge traffic jams on Beijing’s roadways and is amazed by the Western influence and bright colors. In addition, skyscrapers have sprung up in former farm fields. “It has been incredible to watch,” he says.
Molter credits his success in life, and business, to his strong work ethic. A person who can’t sit still for long, he often is one of the first to arrive at the office in the morning and, many times, one of the last to leave. Because he deals with international clients and time differences, his responsibilities don’t fit into a neat 9-to-5 schedule. Molter also places a high importance on integrity. “I believe with a good attitude, hard work and strong values, you’ll go far,” he says.
Although he travels the world, Molter still calls Woodville, Ohio, the small town where he was born, home. To give back to his community, he helped found an organization that supports the public schools by raising funds for special projects. In his free time, Molter enjoys snow skiing, boating and biking with his family.
Molter and his wife recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. They have two children. Nora, BSBA ’09, majored in accounting at ONU and works for Limited Brands in Columbus, Ohio, and Adam, a 2007 graduate of Ohio State University, is a police officer in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Chris Zoeller, BSBA ’05
Chris Zoeller returned to his hometown of Tiffin, Ohio, to help run his parent’s thriving manufacturing business.
Chris Zoeller had a hand – literally – in his family’s business when he still wore diapers. The imprint of his tiny fingers, pressed into the concrete for good luck, continues to greet visitors on the steps leading to Laminate Technologies’ headquarters in Tiffin, Ohio.
But 26 years later, Zoeller is determined to make a more significant mark on the company his parents founded. The ONU business graduate and attorney recently returned to his hometown to lead the company to a higher level of efficiency and output.
Laminate Technologies (LamTech) manufactures custom laminated panels and fabricated parts for kitchen cabinets and other applications. The privately held company employs approximately 150 people, with plants in Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee. Known for quality products and outstanding customer service, Laminate Technologies experienced phenomenal growth in the past two years, despite the struggling U.S. economy.
Fred Zoeller, Chris’ father, took a leap of faith when he founded LamTech in 1985. Driven by fear, he worked hard and relied on his instincts to build a profitable company. “I just went for it,” Fred says. “I learned through the school of hard knocks.”
Early on, one of Fred’s friends told him he would be a true entrepreneur when he sweated out his first Friday. “I didn’t know what he meant,” he says. “But I soon learned when the first Friday rolled around and I looked at my checking account and my payroll and started to sweat,” he recalls with a laugh.
LamTech became a central part of Chris’ upbringing. The company’s employees felt like an extended family, he says. Dinner-table conversations inevitably turned to “talk about the business” because Chris’ mom, Louise, also plays a vital role in the company’s operation.
After graduating from Northern with a degree in accounting and international business and economics, Chris obtained a law degree from the University of Toledo. He worked in Toledo’s court system for several years as a law clerk and bailiff. But he grew dissatisfied with the lack of accountability and initiative in the public sector.
“I did a lot of soul searching and realized that my mindset and skill set best fit the business world,” he says. Driven to excel, Chris craved a fast-paced environment and work that demanded his ideas and energy. LamTech fit the bill.
Charged with special projects, Chris is spearheading the company’s switch to real-time inventory tracking through warehouse automation. The new technology will save time and money by providing instantaneous data for each stage of the production process. Leading this project puts Chris in a position to learn about all aspects of the company’s operation. “I have enjoyed spending time with my Dad,” says Chris. “I’ve come to understand the complexity of the business and what he went through to build the business from the ground up.”
In an age of corporate greed and indifference, the Zoeller family runs LamTech with refreshing, old-fashioned values. They cultivate a family-like atmosphere and treat employees with respect. In fact, they refer to employees as “members” of the company. After five years of service, they call employees “partners.”
The company’s success, says Fred, rests on the hard work, knowledge and dedication of the people he employs. In return, he strives to provide fair compensation and secure jobs. “Many lives depend on the decisions I make,” he says, “I take that responsibility seriously. I look out for the members (employees) and they look out for me.”
Strong supporters of the Tiffin community, the Zoeller family volunteers with the Humane Society of Seneca County and the NOAH (No One Alone or Hungry) Foundation, which sponsors an annual Christmas dinner for local citizens who are all alone during the holidays.
Chris says it feels right to be home, to support the causes important to his parents, and to play an integral role in LamTech’s continued success. “Growing up, I always knew LamTech was special,” he says. “I am proud to be a part of this family and continue the tradition my parents started 25 years ago. I am looking forward to the future and being part of the company as it progresses to new and previously unimaginable heights.”
Mark White, BSBA '85
Mark White resides in Van Wert, Ohio, where he continues his father’s legacy by managing the nursing home business he founded in 1960.
Mark White is passionate about the care of elderly people and their quality of life. Together with his team, he has built a thriving business encompassing eight nursing-home and assisted-living facilities, a physical-therapy company, two home-health companies, and a pharmacy. “Leading this business was my destiny,” says White, “a place I felt
I could make a difference.”
Vancrest is a family-owned business based in Van Wert, Ohio, the hometown where White was born and raised. The company, which employs approximately 1,400 people, specializes in providing a continuum of care, including short- and long-term care, home health, respite care, assisted living, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s programs. “We match our services to each individual’s needs,” says White. “Our focus is putting people on a path to strength, health and independence whenever possible.”
White’s family has a long association with ONU; three generations graduated from the University and made a mark in the health care field. His great-grandfather, Elmer White, BS 1883, BS 1887, LLB 1891, one of ONU’s earliest graduates, operated a successful community drug store. His father, Dr. Edward White, BA ’48, a physician, started the family business in 1960. A pioneer for his times, Dr. White recognized the need for elder care before it became popular and profitable with the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. Dr. White possessed an altruistic nature, shaped by his military service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He came back from the war a changed man, says White, and worked diligently for the sick and elderly until his untimely death at age 55 from a heart attack.
White, who was only 16 when his dad died, recalls the period of grief and rebelliousness that followed. His mom, Claire, assumed control of the family business but passed away a few years later when White was a sophomore at Ohio Northern. Suddenly, White was all alone in the world, except for his siblings. But even at his young age, he knew his path in life would be to continue the legacy his father started.
Fresh out of college, White assumed control of Vancrest in 1984. He soon realized the vast possibilities for growing and shaping the company. “I learned through research and asking a lot of questions. I listened carefully to anyone willing to share their expertise and advice,” he says, expressing gratitude to many mentors in the Van Wert business community who provided guidance.
White organized his team and seized opportunities to expand into rural markets with an unmet need. In some cases, they re-opened a closed facility or turned around an underperforming facility. “I think we’ve made a difference in these communities,” he says. “We’ve fulfilled a need and put better systems in place.”
Over two decades, Vancrest grew from one facility to eight, a jump from 77 beds to 650. The company also added 165 assisted-living apartments, two home-health companies (one jointly owned with Van Wert County Hospital), a physical-therapy company (also jointly owned with the hospital) and a pharmacy. White and his team opened facilities in Convoy, Delphos, Eaton, Greenville and Holgate because of their close proximity to Van Wert.
White says his company’s strategy is to offer exceptional elder care in a compassionate, family-like environment. He and his team continually measure and review key quality measures. They recognize the power of word-of-mouth in small towns, and each employee stands proudly behind the Vancrest business. White even lists his home phone number in the local directory, welcoming residents and families to call him with concerns.
Vancrest’s success, says White, is directly attributed to the company’s wonderful employees. He hires good people and empowers them to do their jobs. He carefully selects managers who possess both a compassionate nature and business know-how. “It is important to find the right skill set,” he says. “We hire lean-operating people with strong ethics.”
Lean operation remains a critical factor in the rapidly changing health care environment. New government rules and diminishing funds for Medicare and Medicaid have negatively impacted his business, says White. “We’ve had to restructure and navigate through it,” he explains. “We’ve had to learn to do more with less.”
Despite the challenges, White continues to feel optimistic about Vancrest’s future. Success, he says, sometimes boils down to attitude. “Every venture I’ve undertaken, I’ve always believed it would succeed,” he says.
As a successful business leader in the Van Wert community, White has created numerous real estate partnerships and served on many board positions, including First Presbyterian Church trustee (past president), Industrial Development Corporation (past president), Salvation Army advisory board, Health Systems Association, Community First Bank & Trust, Van Wert County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Van Wert County Port Authority, and Van Wert City Council (past president).
He and his wife, Michelle, have two teenage children, Claire and Nick. They own a fifth-wheel camper and enjoy traveling as a family across the country to visit the scenic national parks. To date, they’ve visited 38 of the 48 parks in the lower 48 states. They also enjoy snow skiing and wine tasting.