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April 20, 2015 Executive Profile

Powerful mentors influence Doar's management philosophy

HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns Burke Doar stands next to Trumpf Inc.'s fiber-cutting machine in the company's Farmington campus showroom.

As a young lawyer, Burke Doar didn't have your average legal mentors and role models.

He worked as a law clerk for Louis Freeh, then U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York who would later head the FBI. He also grew up the son of prominent civil rights lawyer John Doar, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012 for his work in the South.

He also worked for his father, whose public service at the U.S. Department of Justice inspired Burke Doar to serve on the West Hartford town council. He's been elected twice.

Doar's professional calling, though, wasn't reconstructing facts; it was constructing things. After five years as a lawyer, he joined Rockford, Ill.-based Ingersoll Milling Machine Co. in 1995 in sales management then joined Farmington-based Trumpf Inc. in 2002. He was promoted to senior vice president last year.

The company, with $645 million in sales last fiscal year, designs and manufactures fabricating equipment and industrial lasers. It employs almost 500 people locally, including engineers, physicists and machinists, at its sprawling campus. It's a subsidiary of Germany-based Trumpf Group, whose sales approached $3 billion.

While Doar focuses on the “front end of the business,” including overseeing sales and marketing in North America, he works closely with Trumpf Inc. President and CEO Peter Hoecklin on the overall business.

“It's a big job, but it's a fabulous job because I collaborate with an awful lot of good managers that help the company to be successful,” Doar says.

Doar, 51, is married to Carole, a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. They have three children, ages 10, 13 and 16.

“What made me decide to switch careers was this feeling I had ever since I was a boy that I really liked architecture, I really liked building things,” he says.

Trumpf's high-tech machines help companies precisely cut, trim and mark metal using embedded lasers. Additionally, its lasers can be integrated into other companies' own equipment and systems. It also makes precision punching machinery.

“We're in the enabling-technology business,” Doar says.

Industries using Trumpf equipment include aerospace, household appliances, HVAC, energy, automotive, electronics and medical. In medical, Trumpf lasers are used to make tangible products, or to place identifying marks on medically implanted items like pacemakers.

Doar says Trumpf's corporate values parallel his own.

“We're big proponents of diversity,” Doar said. “People from different backgrounds make our company better. So if you go back to how I was brought up … in a funny way, this little machine tool company in Farmington is kind of a metaphor for the things I believe in. That's why I enjoy working here.”

He calls his father — who died last November after a long legal career that included assistant attorney general in the Justice Department heading the civil rights division in the 1960s — an American hero.

Obama in 2012 said John Doar “was the face of the Justice Department in the South. … John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March. He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

John Doar also prosecuted the case portrayed in “Mississippi Burning.”

Burke Doar says his father “had this energy and this restlessness to do something better than he did the day before.”

He recalls his father's listening ability and strong work ethic, whether helping clients or building stone walls at the family farm in Pine Plains, N.Y.

“What he did for me was he motivated me, but not by any way other than just setting a tremendous example,” Doar says.

Freeh influenced him, too, as an advocate for getting people to grow in their position and providing them confidence while insisting on excellence, Doar says.

Doar's management style?

“I always tell people that work for me, 'My job is to make you succeed and to be the best' and to give them the confidence to make their own decisions. …,” he says.

Fred Grohs, Trumpf's Northeast regional sales manager, said he respects Doar's approach. “He's not micromanaging,” says Grohs. “He is hiring good people and he gives them an opportunity to be creative and to be productive within their own personal limitations.”

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