SANDOWN, N.H.—When Donald Picard found himself on the outside looking in after a restructuring at custom mixer Hexpol Compounding in early 2020, he wasn't ready to call it a career.
Nobody would have blamed him if he decided it was time to ease up a bit after more than four decades in the rubber, plastics and HCR silicone industries, and concentrate on all the things retirees do.
After all, Picard had spent 17 years at Hexpol's North American unit, the largest unit of Sweden's Hexpol A.B., finishing as vice president of sales and marketing. Prior to that was another 17-year stint at PolyOne.
Picard wasn't surprised when his tenure ended at Hexpol. When his former boss Tracy Garrison left as head of Hexpol N.A. toward the end of 2019 to take the lead job at Geon Performance Solutions, Hexpol A.B. brought back Kenneth Bloom as president of Hexpol N.A. Bloom previously was CEO of Preferred Compounding, but he had been left without a job when Hexpol bought Preferred in July 2019.
When some restructuring at Hexpol N.A. followed, Picard was not retained.
"We all kind of knew that was coming," Picard said. "It wasn't a shock. It was time. We had a good run, and it was time to do something else."
But Picard didn't want to lead a life of leisure. "I wanted to stay involved in the business world, and the polymer industry," he said, "and if I can, pay back all the people who helped me along the way. Over the years, a lot of old timers took me under their wings and taught me the ropes, and if I can help another generation do that, why not."
So he decided to enter the consulting world, running his firm Wendacon L.L.C. out of his home in Sandown. He wanted a name that would stand out, and the Wendacon moniker comes partly from his father's full-blooded Native American heritage, having been born on a Wendat Tribe reservation in Canada.
To start, Picard concentrated on opportunities in the plastics industry, and just recently opened it up to rubber-related gigs. Despite his long tenure with rubber at Hexpol, he actually holds a bachelor's degree in plastics technology from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
"My formal education was in plastics," he said. "I just ended up in the rubber industry by default. That's where I worked summers to put myself through college. I kind of stayed with rubber, but I worked for a few plastics companies throughout my career."
With Wendacon, he will focus his professional interests on rubber, plastics and thermoplastic elastomer compounding, sales and marketing, and organization of intellectual property in the industry. Its website, WendaconLLC.com, also lists other areas of expertise such as vendor selection, raw material selection, process, technical service and mergers and acquisitions.
Since starting the business, Picard said he has had a pretty good reception.
"I've been able to stay busy ever since," he said. "It keeps me just busy enough so I'm not working 60 hours a week like I used to, but I'm also not rattling around looking for something to do."
One thing he believes has helped him garner clients during the pandemic has been cutbacks, particularly at larger companies, in technical, engineering and even some marketing roles. "What I'm noticing is there seems to be more acceptance of using consultants for specific projects, rather than re-hiring people to fill staff positions," he said. "Some are still a little bit tentative about filling those positions again."
His projects thus far have included a couple of market studies for companies looking to get into new product lines; helping an adhesives manufacturer set up its sales department; assisting another plastics company that was looking to get into medical identify acquisition targets; and more recently working with a company to help it expand its plastics compounding business.
Picard said he's kind of a "jack of all trades" who knows a little bit about a lot of things. "Most of the time that is what companies are looking for, some general guidance," he said.
With the pandemic, he hasn't had to do any plane travel in the past year, but has taken a few driving trips.
It also has worked well for him to be hired on a per-project basis, not something where he demands a large monthly retainer. The scope of the project is spelled out and when it's done, that's it.
"They don't owe me anything and I don't owe them anything," he said.
As a member of the ACS Rubber Division and Society of Plastics Engineers, Picard believes his network of contacts will be a benefit as he moves forward with Wendacon.
"Mostly where it helps is I've been around for so long, I know a lot of people," he said. "They respect my integrity and know they will get a product we both can be proud of. That's important."