By: Michael Connors Issue: Vision Section: Business
Vision In Motion
Recently having the pleasure of interviewing Tom Lockwood, son of the late founder Frank Lockwood, I came to understand very quickly that his vision for Lockwood International is firmly rooted in simple, yet timeless truths. Do what you say you will do and maintain your integrity—simple as that.
From these professional and personal tenants, Lockwood International has grown from a small family valve business into an international force to be reckoned with. What’s more, Lockwood International is positioned to maintain visibility across a multitude of industries especially with larger companies. All the while, the company has invested in its operations and is aggressively reaching out to smaller and mid-sized organizations as well. As a result of growing with their customers, Lockwood has become a powerful player in the industry.
Houston-based Lockwood International exemplifies that staying true to your vision and being consistent in your practices will lead to professional and personal triumph. What’s special and noteworthy is that they have maintained their core belief: If you treat your customers well and provide an honest value, your size won’t matter and you will continue to be successful. And, at the heart of their achievement is the culture of a small family business whose vision is based on a simple and sustainable contract between customers and employees promoting family values and community investment. From the beginning, founder Frank Lockwood had a dream, and his sons Tom and Mike have perpetuated and nurtured that dream. In fact, Frank Lockwood opened the doors in 1977 and their customers soon realized the value of a reliable one-stop shop for valves. Mike and Tom Lockwood took over the reins in 1987 and have led the company to become one of the most respected and reliable valve resources to all industrial sectors. Through customer loyalty and the dedication of well over 250 forward-thinking employees worldwide, Lockwood International has become the global leader in valve distribution and now offers machining and automation services.
It may sound simplistic but to build and maintain a reputation of respectability and reliability is not an easy feat and is due in large part to the fact that they remain a privately-held family business. Tom Lockwood, speaking of his father, told the story of how his father was working for a company that was bought out and he remembers his father saying, “I don’t want to go to another big corporation with a bunch of accountants running your business.” So he started his own company in 1977. In 1987 Frank Lockwood passed away. But Tom and Mike took the reigns and continued to build a monument to visionary leadership.
One of their first large contracts was awarded in 2001 by Exxon Mobil. Owner Tom Lockwood describes their visionary approach to corporate growth from when they won the historic contract. “When we won the North American valve contract with Exxon Mobil we had to open a series of branches to support the business. Today we operate in Baytown, Houston, Beaumont, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Alberta, Sarnia, and Baton Rouge. But, the growth didn’t stop there. We then took on projects in South Africa, Singapore, Italy, and Brazil. And then the next contracts with INVISTA and Koch enabled us to grow even more.”
The future at Lockwood International is looking bright. Tom Lockwood declares, “I think we can double our size in the next 10 years. We’re going into new markets. We’re pushing to get into the pipeline business. We have inventory and we’re chasing pipeline companies. The U.S. is full of natural gas, so now everyone agrees we have to use more natural gas. It’s cleaner and abundant so let’s use more of it. That is one area we are trying to grow.” Having vision means that you never rest on your laurels and the Lockwood brothers are certainly looking forward trying to build on their success, while maintaining what’s special about the company.
Lockwood International is a family run valve company that respects and values those that work for them. Tom Lockwood knows that achievement is based on collaboration and when those around you share their core values—it becomes a force of nature. Always to the point, Tom Lockwood describes the underlying “magic” at the company. “First, do what you say. Next, although things can go awry—always keep your integrity. The one thing you can never lose is your integrity. It may not be the most profitable thing, but always do the right thing and do what you say,” he says. The Lockwood leadership can be described as those that walk the walk and talk the talk. Tom Lockwood says, “We have a lot of people that really work hard. And, I think we try to treat everyone fairly. Being a private company without the pressure from accounts and stock prices and things like that we can be more flexible with the way we operate. Another thing, I try not to ask someone to do something I am not willing to do. I want to see us all succeed.”
The approach undertaken at Lockwood International is certainly visionary, especially in an industry that is often characterized by greed and industrial corruption. We see Lockwood International as a case study of vision in motion.