A 33-year-old Paul Maximillian Heinze served as the Technology & Manufacturing Association’s board chairman in 1975, during the Association’s Golden Anniversary year.
Paul M. Heinze, now 80, exudes valuable wisdom, perspective, and insight on today’s US manufacturing industry, American history, business development, and common sense. He actively advises business owners on acquisitions and mergers with TMA affiliate member Goldberg & Heinze.
Heinze gained much of his industry insider knowledge first-hand as a third-generation manufacturer before his family’s company was acquired by another in the late 70s.
His grandfather, Max Paul Heinze, started the MP Heinze Machine Company in downtown Chicago, and served as one of the originating board members of what was known in 1925 as the “Die, Tool, Special Machinery and Manufacturers Association” – now “TMA.”
Heinze studied law for a time in college and graduated with a degree in economics and finance from North Park University in Chicago. He joined the family business in 1965.
“I came from college believing I knew a great deal, soon to find out that I knew virtually nothing,” Heinze chuckled as he told TMA News. “Being in a family business is a nepotistic experience where you usually come in as an executive of some kind because Dad is the boss.”
Heinze said the family machining business just wasn’t a good fit for him, so when the company fell into his hands, he followed the counsel of advisors that foresaw severe economic challenges in the early 1980s.
“They said to me, young man, you have a couple of choices. You have choices to downsize, pull the covers over your head and let it pass, or sell out,” Heinze said. “I chose to sell out in sections and then hold one of the largest well-organized auctions in Chicago history.”
He then took six months off, when his wife challenged him to “do something constructive.”
So amid some of the most challenging economic times in US History, Heinze decided to use the knowledge and experience he obtained during his company’s sale to help others facing similar scenarios.
“It wasn’t my desire to see how many companies could be sold. It was to see how many could be consolidated and the very much in-demand people, and so the owners would go out with a sense of dignity and respect,” he said.
Heinze’s experience with hundreds of manufacturers over the years points to similarities he’s seen among successful
“Each company that has been successful was led by an owner,” he said. “In most cases, there’s a leader with confidence. A risk taker. Humble to an extent. Glowingly delightful when they achieve something. Extraordinary, with an excitement that what they do may even change some parts of of the world.”
Heinze continued to recollect talented manufacturers he had known and their motivations for success. They were involved in building parts for satellites or embellishing rectangular color TV tools, he said.
“I can think of competitors and friends of mine who made progress by being the missing piece to solve the problem that brought their clients’ product to incredible heights in the marketplace,” Heinze said.
A unique pride comes when these talented individuals see the drawings that someone made and submitted for them to make this part or this machine, and the drawings just don’t work, he said. When they are asked, “Can you make it work?” and those individuals say “Yes,” and they do make it work, a pride wells up in that manufacturer that knows well his craft.
“There’s a quiet, unsung group [of manufacturers] that made contributions they’ll never be recognized for,” Heinze said. “But they did it.”
Heinze is proud of the service TMA has offered manufacturers since he served as chairman of the board 48 years ago. A lot has changed in the industry, and TMA has worked hard to adapt to this changing world.
While the average precision machining tooling and related companies remain at 15 to 20 employees, Heinze says Illinois is currently not a welcoming place for small and mid-sized businesses.
“Let’s take an established 30-year company. Where I would look to get an answer about how things are in Illinois is to look in their financial statements or tax returns. Are they making money? Are they growing? Are they preparing their company for ownership transition to a family member by sale or gifting? Or will they go to another party and sell their business?
“How attractive is the company now? Could it be more attractive if it was in Wisconsin or Michigan, Indiana, or Ohio? I think so. Illinois is really in the dire spotlight of discouragement when you consider what other states are doing,” Heinze said.
But the challenge the industry and the association faces go even deeper, he said.
“The thing I think I fear the most is the fracturing of patriotism. There is more of an ‘every man for himself’ attitude now. Before, the thinking was more that the company needs to survive. The people need to survive.”
Once the center of much of that type of discussion, the conversation has moved from the local association to the State Capitol, he said.
A watchful eye must always be on Springfield activities, “So that they don’t harpoon you in the back with legislation that will make it impossible for you to continue,” Heinze said.
“That’s just not good. Is it the fault of the TMA? Hell no, it’s not. It’s reacting to decisions that are made by others that affect the association’s operations and the operations of member companies,” he said. “The TMA probably is at the top of its game, given those circumstances.”
The value of Heinze’s insight into manufacturing, business, and politics became increasingly evident during TMA News’ short visit with Heinze. So much more about his and his family’s contribution to American life and its future should be journaled to impart wisdom to the next generation.
Such an example goes back to March 24, 1936, when M. P. Heinze was granted US Patent #2034902. The 3-sheet diagram of a mechanical mixer Grandpa Heinze created is a fascinating review. The mixer was to be used to make cocktails, desserts, chemical mixtures, and churn butter. Using a crankshaft design originated other similar mechanisms – perhaps even a predecessor to today’s cement mixers.
The list of Heinze family contributions to American life, manufacturing and business appears limitless.
After 44 years of helping manufacturers with their businesses,Paul M. Heinze looks back with great pride on his choices. “It’s been a great ride,” he said. “It really has.”
And … it’s not over yet.
You can reach Paul at email@example.com