Over the course of 27 years, John Bennett went from an entry-level position to vice president, all at the same company — FLEXcon in Spencer. Here is how he did it.

Manufacturing is an evolving industry that provides daily obstacles, challenges and opportunities to keep you engaged throughout your career. Employees in the industry have the chance to grow as personal interests and manufacturing itself develops over time.

Learning the ropes

I graduated from Bentley University in Waltham with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1989 and joined FLEXcon shortly thereafter as a technical service representative.

I first applied to work at the company by the recommendations of my uncle, who worked as a material handler at FLEXcon for over 30 years.

Before I knew it, I found myself in an entry-level position that required me to work in the labs for nine months to learn FLEXcon technologies and, simultaneously, work in phone support for some of our New England-based customers.

During this time, I tried my best to be a human sponge and internalize as much information as I could about FLEXcon and their products.

Bennett climbing a mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

John Bennett
Vice president, FLEXcon

Work location: Spencer
Hometown: Princeton
High School: Wachusett Regional High School
College: Bentley University
Hobbies: Firefighting, piloting helicopters, riding motorcycles

Working well with others

Since my first role at the company, I have held numerous technical, marketing and management positions over 27 years of employment.

Along the pathway to success, I learned the importance of being a quick learner, not being afraid to ask for help, networking as much as possible and doing your best to take advantage of every opportunity although it might be scary at first.

Offering to help

In the midst of my technical service responsibilities, I offered to become a statistical process control instructor after taking an internal course at FLEXcon.

Using the knowledge I gained, I began training FLEXcon employees as a certified instructor on the weekend night shift.

This brings me to my next lesson: you must be willing to make personal sacrifices at times in your career, while still keeping in mind a healthy work-life balance. The real key is knowing when to cede on one or the other.

Finding the right mentor

I was promoted to market development specialist electronic printing in 1991 after servicing FLEXcon’s customers. This new role in marketing encompassed the development of FLEXcon’s line of variable information printable products, which was a scary responsibility at first.

Luckily, I had a great mentor, who was invaluable in my career development and was particularly helpful as I was working to grow a new industry for FLEXcon. Finding a mentor you trust and can learn from is critical to steady career growth.

Traveling around the world

I began to attend industry conferences and champion projects that spring-boarded me to a new level of knowledge and recognition in the industry.

I began to receive requests to speak at industry conferences and before too long was speaking at up to nine industry conferences a year, traveling around the world as a recognized expert in variable imaging technologies. With this experience and visibility, I was promoted to electronic printing business team manager, which is when FLEXcon reorganized into business teams.

Managing employees was a whole new challenge; I hadn’t realized how complex it is to manage people and deal with different personal objectives, work ethics and personalities, but it was an important growth opportunity for me.

Being proud of your work

In 1997, I was promoted to vice president of the electronic printing business team. In this role, I spearheaded the consolidation of two business teams and was then was promoted to the position of vice president of the product identification business team. Some of my proudest contributions are the development of FLEXcon’s customer education program and my support of numerous product platforms, technologies, and FLEXcon’s industry associations and co-supplier partnerships.

Working with industry peers

I believe that a major key to my success is being highly active in industry associations. I have held positions with the Association of Automatic Identification Technologies, board of trustees for the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute and the Industry Trends Committee at TLMI.

Having a well-rounded life

Additionally, the manufacturing industry has provided me the opportunity to be involved in and give back to the local community. I have been an on-call firefighter for over 30 years, and I am currently the chief of the Princeton Fire Department and emergency management director for the town of Princeton.

I am also lucky to be a member of the board of trustees for the Worcester Ecotarium and a member of the Worcester Argonauts, an association of influential business professionals in Central Massachusetts.

Fulfilling childhood dreams

Even with extensive business responsibility, outside interests are essential in order to remain a fulfilled and well-rounded person. A life dream of mine from age seven was to be a pilot. I worked towards this dream and am now a commercial helicopter pilot and co-owner of RotorworX L.L.C. I am also an avid skier, snow cat operator at Wachusett Ski Area and sport fisherman. I also play the drums.

And yes, I enjoy spending time with my family. ◾