Bloch School of Management Alumni Achievement Award goes to Frank Wewers
Frank Wewers (MBA ’69) founded Manning Systems, Inc., a front-runner in the gas detection industry. After selling Manning Systems to Honeywell, Wewers went on to found Fli-Tek Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic and tactical advice in the gas sensing and analyzer industry.
In 2010, Wewers joined the University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch Advisory Council. In 2013, a $1 million bequest established the Frank J. and Helen L. Wewers Scholarship Fund to provide financial support for Bloch School students.
Wewers serves on the boards of the Kansas City Art Institute and the UMKC Foundation. He and his wife, Helen, are supporters of arts and public education, including organizations such as the University of Kansas School of Engineering, the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kansas Families for Education, the Alliance for Epilepsy Research and Children’s Mercy.
Because of Wewers’ contribution to his industry and for his commitment to education and to the arts in the greater Kansas City community, the UMKC Alumni Association will present Wewers with the 2018 Henry W. Bloch School of Management Alumni Achievement Award.
Wewers recently discussed his career achievements with UMKC:
What led you to continue your education with a Bloch MBA?
I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and my first job was a sales engineer with the Westinghouse Corporation in the utility division. We sold engineered equipment for power plants, including generators, pumps, switch gear, motors and controls, all for the utility industry. These were high value devices. I found out that the technical information was only half of the requirements for selling and providing these products. The business side, the economics of a purchase, was just as important, including financing, depreciation, return on investment over a period, the future value of money, etc. It became really evident as I got into this industry that a business education was essential and that’s the reason I started at the Bloch School for my MBA.
What are the challenges and rewards of starting your own company? What lessons have you learned along the way?
There are many challenges, as well as rewards, in starting your own company, particularly in the beginning. We basically bootstrapped the business up from three employees to more than 30 employees. Of our 30+ employees, about a third were graduate engineers, another third were technicians, with the remaining third being administrative and sales staff, etc. It required a highly technical group of “nerds” (at that time no one knew what a nerd was). We basically were a company that pushed the envelope in designing equipment that had never been created before. It was a challenge doing it with a small company during those years because the resources for smaller firms were not available then that are available today. Those include enhanced methods of communication, computers, the internet, fax machines, jet travel, etc.
Rewards – One of the things that I enjoyed about the rewards of the company was the freedom to make your own decisions and the freedom to make your own mistakes. I most enjoyed developing and nurturing an environment that allowed high levels of creativity to occur. This was a challenge, but I relied on ideas I picked up during my experience at the Bloch School.
Lessons learned along the way – I could fill a book, and have at times been encouraged to write a book on creating and nurturing a small, highly technical organization. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years with the company we created was the fact that so many times we were told it “can’t be done, it’s not possible, there’s no way that can be accomplished.” But, I tell you, with creative people and a strong desire to make it happen, it can be done. And I think that’s probably the greatest reward I had. And second, I think the other reward is watching that creativity happen in people and to observe and enjoy their growth and success. That gave me my greatest joy.
How did UMKC prepare you for or contribute to your success?
The Bloch School provided a great business background, including finance, economics, accounting, etc. But I think the greatest benefit that contributed to my success was help in decision making and, further, to give you the skills to actually look at yourself, recognize your own biases and how they affect your decision making. Of anything that’s made my success, it’s the process of decision making and always looking, questioning, reflecting on every move that you make in your business life, and this bleeds over into your personal life as well.