In August of 2001, while paging through the Sunday newspaper, I came across a small, black-and-white print ad placed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune classified section. The employment ad was seeking a CEO for a growing rapid injection-molding manufacturer called The Protomold Company. Intrigued, I answered the ad placed by the company’s founder, Larry Lukis. A few months later, I joined his team of 10 employees and my tenure as President and CEO began.
Fast forward 12 years to a company that now employs 730 people in the United States, Europe and Japan and serves a global market of more than 7,000 product developers and engineers. During that time, we’ve added a CNC-machining service, manufactured millions of plastic and metal parts, changed our name to Proto Labs and took the company public on the New York Stock Exchange.
As I look back to that classified ad, it described Protomold as a million dollar company with an immediate available opportunity of $150 million. Proto Labs’ projected revenue for 2013 is expected to very likely eclipse the $150 million mark. The company has never been in better shape, and its future has never looked brighter, so it might have seemed strange to our board of directors when I recently announced that it was time for me to leave Proto Labs.
Whereas Larry was the starter and I was the organizer, we now need a builder to take Proto Labs from a $150 million to $1 billion company. And like Larry did before me, I now place my own employment ad of sorts seeking a new CEO who can take Proto Labs to the next level.
We’re looking for someone with the expertise and background to guide a world-class management team and motivated staff into the future as Proto Labs continues to grow. They should have the experience of growing a company to the $1 billion level or beyond, and be knowledgeable and passionate about systems, processes and procedures. They should know how to motivate a team to tackle complex challenges. Recognizing the fact that sometimes the best idea isn’t their own is critical. Candidates should also be proactive, self-starters who have strong communication skills, demonstrate financial aptitude and are almost obsessive in their responsiveness, since this has become standard operating procedure at Proto Labs.
Finding a new CEO will be a lengthy process and a thorough search is well underway. My plan is to remain with the company throughout that entire process. If you think you are the person to lead Proto Labs, please contact Bo Herbst at PLCEO@heidrick.com.
Brad Cleveland, President and CEO
Proto Labs, Inc.