How do you successfully grow a business? For James E. Bramsen, M.B.A. '61, the answer is easy: focus on your customers.
After earning his M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, Bramsen returned to Wheaton, Illinois, to help run Spraying Systems Co., the company his father cofounded in 1935. Today, Bramsen is chairman and CEO of the company, having successfully matured his father's business into the world's leading designer and manufacturer of spray solutions. The company operates twelve manufacturing facilities throughout the world and offers more than 87,000 different spray nozzles and accessories to customers in approximately 200 industries.
"That's just about any place where customers use liquids in processing," said Bramsen.
Illuminating how he was able to grow the company internationally, Bramsen explained simply, "The mission of my father was to solve every customer's spray problem, and we can't do that unless we are all over the world."
He additionally credits the college of business with putting him on the path to success.
"I have to give my experience at the University of Oregon credit. The research and thesis work I did there gave me a level of appreciation for continuing to learn," said Bramsen.
"To be successful, you have to keep learning," he elaborated, noting advice he would give students today. "The long-term objective of a CEO is to figure out how your organization must change as the world changes. Your job is to see the opportunities and figure out how to seize them. You want to change the organization not only to meet that future, but to do more for customers and the community."
Bramsen also has fond memories of his UO classmates, particularly the late Ken Ramsing (who subsequently became a professor at the Lundquist College of Business).
"Some things you learn by osmosis," noted Bramsen, recalling that his classmates were "very capable people" whom he learned from when working on class projects together.
As for why he continues to be actively involved in running Spraying Systems Co. at age 70, he said, "I continue to have fun. I love what I am doing. Every day our sales engineers come to work knowing that a customer will have a new challenge. That keeps it exciting. There are applications for spray equipment in industries you would never imagine, and we see many more new uses every year."
The privately held Spraying Systems Co. also receives dozens of buyout offers yearly, but Bramsen's commitment to his customers and employees keeps him from selling. Plus, his son Frank now heads sales and marketing for the company's industrial division. And Bramsen mused that he has three mathematically and engineering-minded grandkids in college.
"So," he said, "there's always the possibility we could go another generation."