CLEVELAND—Ace Products & Consulting L.L.C.'s executive staff may look a little different, but that's all part of the plan.
The firm said that Doug Hartley is retiring as sales and marketing director, a role he's held in the last two years in addition to being an investor in the firm.
CEO and President Erick Sharp worked with Hartley at Portage Precision Polymers, a custom mixing operation that Hartley founded and eventually sold to Hexpol A.B. At that time, Sharp decided to launch his own company, which led him to establish Ace.
He knew Hartley would be a key resource, so he approached him to come on board.
"I waited just to let him get bored with retirement," Sharp said at the recently held International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland. "I called him and said 'You're bored aren't you?' And he said 'Yeah.' I explained my plans for the next level and he signed on in supporting us. We knew out of the gate it wasn't going to be long term, but he helped us get to the next level. Now that we're there, he's been kind of phasing out a bit and we're to the point where we're rockin' and rolling and he feels good about retiring."
And now that the company has reached the next level—pushed beyond the start-up phase and now in a position to chase growth—Sharp said Hartley felt comfortable taking a step back into retirement.
"We have a good structure and feel good about it so the timing was perfect," Sharp said.
Hartley, however, will remain on as an investor with the firm, something that also has helped Ace find its footing in the industry. Sharp said Hartley and the other investors have provided invaluable experience as, like him, others in the group have at some point or another launched a company.
Sharp said in the early stages he asked all his investors to make a list of everything that went wrong when they started up their companies. He said that the most valuable advice he received was "everything takes longer than you think."
"I can't say I've avoided everything there is to avoid, but it helped keep me away from some of it," Sharp said. "The business insight there was invaluable and obviously Doug's a figure in the industry, too. Having him go around and talk to all of his connections and telling them to give Ace a shot helped us out."
In conjunction with Hartley's retirement, Ace has promoted two individuals into key roles—Frank Pappas to director of sales and business development, and Doug Foster to director of operations.
Pappas joined Ace in February as director of new business development. The firm said he was instrumental in helping the firm achieve its rapid business growth during 2019.
Foster previously served as Ace's laboratory manager and joined the firm during its move to its current facility in Ravenna, Ohio, helping the company set up its laboratory and establish its operations.
Both will be instrumental as Ace continues along its growth path, Sharp said. The firm operates in three main areas—testing, formulation development and raw material analysis for suppliers, which Sharp said has experienced a lot of growth in the last year.
Sharp said the industry wants to see data that a supplier already has put its raw material into an application that's similar, how it compares to other materials, and give them papers saying this is how it works and how to use it.