June 9, 2017 | last updated June 9, 2017 12:59 pm
CFO of the Year 2017

Daniels helps build Wepco Plastics' future workforce

PHOTO | Steve Laschever
PHOTO | Steve Laschever

Charles Daniels | Winner: Private Company — less than or equal to 100 employees

Title: CFO

Company: Wepco Plastics

Size of organization: 25 employees

Education: Bachelor's degree in hospitality management; MBA

Previous job(s): Business consultant

Charles Daniels left the corporate world a few years ago and joined the small, family-owned Wepco Plastics Inc. where he has served as CFO since 2013. Known for moving around in his career, Daniels says he's there to stay, knowing he's played a big role in helping turnaround the Middlefield-based injection-molding company.

When Daniels came on board, he was charged with planning, budgeting and getting the business operation in line. It was a tough time for Wepco. After 9/11, they lost a lot of customers because other industries had slowed down and companies were going overseas for short-run production and product development. Once 50-plus employees strong, Wepco had dwindled to just 12 workers. People were covering multiple jobs and doing too much overall.

When Wepco President David Parmalee suggested hiring his childhood friend, Daniels, and company owner Waldo Parmalee agreed to it, things changed drastically.

"He bailed out all of the mistakes that I had been making in the rush, and things started going more and more smoothly," Waldo Parmalee said. "And I also recognized that he could be a real asset to the company. He has brought the state of Connecticut and my company together on numerous projects, with grants and helping with schooling for some of our employees. He's changed our bottom line."

Specifically, Daniels since 2014 has helped increase the company's income by 13 percent and net profits by 203 percent through cost reductions and grant revenues. Wepco now employs 23 people and specializes in prototypes and short- to medium-run production of plastic-injection molded parts that are designed by customers in the consumer goods, defense, marine, electronics, medical and aerospace industries. They ship to an average of 50 customers a month and work with approximately 150 companies each year.

Daniels, 40, went to college for hospitality management and worked at Marriot International and Bank of America. He started a small business consulting company and got his MBA. He's currently studying to become a certified management accountant (CMA).

Daniels and both Parmalees go back nearly 30 years. Daniels and Dave Parmalee played on the same little league team, and Waldo Parmalee was their coach.

Daniels' current "big crusade" is partnering with different Connecticut institutions, community colleges and tech schools to change their curriculums and become more specialized in certain areas in order to help groom a future workforce for the many injection-molding companies in the state.

"There's a term, the 'silver tsunami,' of all these people who are 65, 70 years old working in a factory and when they retire there's nobody behind them to fill in. So, what do we do?" Daniels asked. "How do we pay for it? Who's going to train them? A company like us, we're small. When we have to train somebody it directly affects our productivity because we don't have a HR department or a training manager."

To combat this problem, he created a partnership with ARBURG, a manufacturer of injection-molding machines based in Rocky Hill, Goodwin College and The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT) to work together in building a manufacturing employment stream "because there's such a dearth of people out there."

"My goal is, hopefully it will take off and they'll have a good selection of students every year who can come out into the workforce ready to contribute. And we'll further that by sending people back for continuing education," Daniels said.

Daniels said he is "constantly looking for new ways to get more bang for our buck." He earned a grant through Eversource that helped the company examine its business methods, including how it obtains quotes and processes orders. The exercise has helped the company trim costs, reduce lead time, improve customer satisfaction and increase revenue.

Daniels has also helped Wepco use the state's Subsidized Training and Employment Program (Step Up), which reimburses 50 percent of training costs if a company hires people who are unemployed. "It's investing in our workforce and in our future. Before we weren't sending people to training courses because it was expensive and we were losing them for a week," he explained. Under Daniels' leadership, Wepco has doubled its trade-show appearances and obtained a grant through the state's Manufacturing Innovation Fund Voucher Program that allowed it to purchase a software program for its design/mold-building room.

Daniels recently participated on a panel discussion for The National Fund, where he discussed ways to help underemployed people, ages 18 to 29, find jobs. He spoke about the ways Wepco trains youth and how the company finds and works with young people.

Looking toward the future, Daniels said he wants to improve networking with similar companies in the industry.

"Even though we're looking for the same type of business, if we can work together and save money or share ideas and things like that, there's some opportunity to share resources," he said.

On the job

Guiding business principle: Exceed expectations

Best way to keep your competitive edge: Invest time in education and training

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Leaving full-time hospitality work

Worst business decision: I should have started my own business earlier than I did

Goal yet to be achieved: Certified Management Accountant certification (studying now for exams later this year)

Personal touch in your office: I keep my personal laptop with me to listen to podcasts

Personal side

Favorite way to relax: Spending time with my wife and three kids

Hobbies: Golf, fishing, hiking, playing guitar, reading, cooking

Last vacation: Ireland with my oldest daughter

Favorite movie: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

The car you drive: 2012 Mazda CX9

Currently reading: "The Omnivore's Dilemma," by Michael Pollan

Favorite cause: Disadvantaged children

Second choice career: Author

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