NEWTON, Iowa—Thombert Inc. is entering a new era as two members of the third generation of the Smith family have moved into top executive posts at the company.
Walt Smith, the son of Thombert co-founder Robert Smith and the majority shareholder of the business, has retired as chairman and CEO, handing the leadership of the company to two of his four children and the firm's long-time president, Dick Davidson.
His daughter, Lara Nicholson, has taken over as chairman of the company, and his son, William, has been named executive vice president. A decision on who will be the next CEO will be made in the future, Smith said.
Davidson, who has served as president of Thombert since 1994 "and has largely been running the company," will continue in that post, according to Smith. "I hired him when he graduated from college in 1977 and he's been with us since then. He's done an exceptional job."
Smith also has placed his majority holdings in Thombert in a trust fund that benefits his four children and continues on to succeeding generations of his family. That gives them a controlling voting interest in the business.
Nicholson, 50 and the mother of three grown children, has held a number of key posts for companies in both the U.S. and England. For the last 17 years she's served as president of EveryWarehouse/eWWS, which focuses on delivering solutions to the telecom, high voltage products and hazmat industries for final consolidation, storage and delivery.
"Our flexible and configurable web-based warehouse management software allows for integrations along the supply chain from ERP systems to the warehouse scanners for a real time closed loop management across distributed warehouses," she said. She joined the logistics business in 2003 when it was transitioning to expand its logistics customers and proprietary web-based warehouse management systems, she said.
And while Nicholson has held a number of top positions with companies—including Utopia, Covansys and Sirva—she still recalls vividly her entry into the business world as a little girl. "My first job was self-given, when my father would tote us along to the office on Saturdays," she said. "I would sharpen all the pencils I could find with the electric sharpener that I was fascinated with while he worked.
"And it ended up being something I carry a reminder of every day because one day when I ran into my father's arms to hug him in Thombert's parking lot, he had one of those super sharp pencils is his hand. I have had a tiny lead 'tattoo' on my knee ever since then. It's a daily reminder of my first job and my over-zealous work ethic."