Up to the Mike
Solutiaís New Division President,
Mike Donnelly, Talks to Window Film Magazine
Mike Donnelly Résumé
Title: President and general manager of Solutiaís Performance
Education: Bachelorís degree in Chemical Engineering from the
University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Last Job: President and general manager of Solutiaís Technical
History with Solutia: Joined Solutia as part of the Flexsys leadership
team in connection with Solutiaís 2007 acquisition of Flexsys.
Experience: Nearly 40 years of manufacturing, business and leadership.
Worked for Akzo Nobel for eight years and Stauffer Chemical Company
for 15 years.
At the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Window Film publisher
Deb Levy sat down with Mike Donnelly, the new president of Solutiaís Performance
Films division, to talk about the industry and his new position.
Window Film: How was the transition into your new
Mike Donnelly: Itís
been pretty intense, to be honest. This is a very exciting and dynamic
business and there is a lot to learn. I didnít come from the window film
business so I have been doing this for seven weeks now and I am still
transitioning and still have a ways to go.
Window Film: Tell me a little about your goals
MD: The goals in this division are
grow, grow, grow. We see this division as an opportunity. Solutia has
gone through its own transformation from bankruptcy, to out of bankruptcy,
to shedding some bad assets. Right now it sits on a platform with three
very good divisions. With an intent to grow the company, we recently made
two acquisitions, one for window films (Novamatrix) and the other for
our Advanced Interlayers division. We made an acquisition in Germany of
a business called Vistasolar. We think we can grow the Performance Films
division in double digits over the next five years. We see opportunities
in things like energy as the world re-focuses more on energy savings.
We have some really good projects like the Enerlogic architectural product
that we just introduced that will take advantage of that market. As people
become more energy-conscience we think that category awareness will go
up and so we think it will create a lot of growth opportunities for us
and the industry in general.
ďI would guess
that most people think of window film as a low-tech cheap pair of sunglasses
hat you put on your car or home to keep out the UV light. Yet, the amount
of technology that goes
into these products is much more than I could have imagined.Ē
Window Film: What direction do you
think the industry will take over the next few years?
MD: The world is changing and getting
back to an energy focus. That is going to be big for us. You will see
more and more energy-related products coming out. Weight-reduction filmsóthose
that have the capability to reduce weightówill be big. So if you look
at our Enerlogic product, for example, you apply it to a single pane of
glass and get double-pane benefits, which obviously has energy savings
as well as weight-saving benefits. We are going toward higher technology
products. Historically [the industryís focus] has been more around tinting
products. Now there is a lot more technology going into products and the
winners are going to be the ones investing in and developing higher technology
Window Film: What do you think the biggest challenges
are facing the industry?
MD: Category awareness. This is an
industry that is under-penetrated in terms of the amount of film that
is on glass. That is the bad news and the good news is that it is under-penetrated
and provides us with a lot of opportunity. We are focused on getting that
category awareness out there and capitalizing on the green movement.
Window Film: Is there a need for a specific product
in the industry?
MD: Iíll go back to our Enerlogic
product because we think itís a game-changing technology. Think about
the number of windows in the world that are single pane or inefficient.
Simply by applying this film you get a steep change with a little money.
Itís in its infancy, but weíve seen very good growth in the first year.
We are introducing a second version of that product at the end of this
year  or beginning of next year which we think will continue to
make that product grow.
Window Film: What has your experience taught you
about the product?
MD: Itís a highly technical product.
I would guess that most people think of window film as a low-tech cheap
pair of sunglasses that you put on your car or home to keep out the UV
light. Yet, the amount of technology that goes into these products is
much more than I could have imagined. Itís high technology and will continue
to evolve to higher levels of sophistication. It
gives us a competitive advantage because a lot of film companies are smaller
than Solutia. We have a lot of resources and are committed to growing
the product line.
Window Film: I had the privilege of interviewing
both Kent Davies and Ray Kollar in the not-too-distant past. This does
speak to the fact that there have been a fair number of changes in management
at Solutia Performance Films in a short amount of time. Have you thought
about how to handle walking into a situation thatís undergone that amount
MD: I havenít thought
about it in the context that you are talking about it. To give you a little
background about my careeróIíve done a lot of start-ups around the world,
building organizations, getting them up and running. Iíve been in situations
where turnarounds were needed. I built a business in the rubber chemicals
side that is really a model business for that industry. The issue here
is getting the growth expectations that we want out of this business.
Those expectations are very high. My goal is to get us to move faster
than we thought we were going to and get us there sooner and better [than
ďI have been involved
in a lot of start-ups and that has been by choice. I like being in places
there is activity and change and challenge.Ē
Window Film: It does seem that Solutia
has a great amount of faith in these products line, but as you were saying,
they havenít felt like the results have been there as soon as they wanted.
Would that be accurate?
MD: I wouldnít quite say it like that.
I think Solutia has looked at where we need to go from here. The focus
thatís been put on this business in the last 18 months has been very good
and was a step in the right direction.
Window Film: I know some of your larger competitors
have really made major shifts in how they go to market. For example, some
have eliminated their automotive films. Others have gone out with a strong
environmental message. Is Solutia considering a move like that?
MD: We have a very good portfolio
of products and thatís important for our dealers and distributors and
the marketplace. With the Novomatrix acquisition we have really rounded
out our portfolio in terms of super premium products- that was their niche.
We have acquired some people who are very good at marketing and branding.
Itís creating opportunities for us to take their model from the East to
the West. It has created a really strong presence in the East for us,
which everyone knows today that is the place to be. So we look to not
give up any of our broad portfolio. We are looking at both architectural
and auto as growth platforms, particularly architectural. There is so
much talk about the green buildings and we see that as a wave that should
Window Film: I know that at least one of your predecessors
was criticized for being a great strategist but maybe not having the rapport
with the dealer network that would have brought some different results.
I would expect that communication with the dealer network is very important
to you. What kinds of things are you going to do to make the dealers feel
good about the management change?
MD: It always starts with communication
and just getting out there, meeting the dealers and distributors. The
first objective is to listen and understand what their needs are and then
figure out how together we can do better in business. The other part of
it is that, in terms of fulfilling their needs, you can have a great strategy,
but if you donít have the execution then you donít get there. This is
a business that has a strong customer and service focus. We have to be
number one there. We feel we are now, but the world doesnít stand still.
We need to up our level of customer and technical supportógetting the
product there on time, when they want it, filling the orders accurately
the first time. If you are running a business properly you canít just
be an expert in strategy or manufacturing you have to have the whole package.
Window Film: You strike me as someone who puts
a lot of pressure on yourself. Am I getting that right?
MD: Iím driven. I have been involved
in a lot of start-ups and that has been by choice. I like being in places
where there is activity and change and challenge. At the same time, I
would like us to have fun and be a team and enjoy our successes. To be
successful you have to be driven and get everyone moving in the same direction.
The Giants didnít win the World Series by not practicing a lot and working
hard and we should do the same.
Window Film: How are you personally going to define
success in this position?
MD: That will be defined by the market.
The customers will define that for us. If they are happy with us then
that will be a sign of success. I can sit here and give you growth numbers
andóobviously we will have objectives thereó but at the end of the day
itís about how the market is receiving you and your organization and its
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