James B. Hamilton

Experience Speaks

How did you get into the converting business?
After serving in the Air Force overseas, I returned to Chicago in 1976 to a sales training position with Colbert. By then I had held many production jobs during summer internships by networking with my father, who worked at Colbert.

Describe your management style.
I surround myself with excellent people I can empower to make decisions and hold accountable for their actions. I guess that would make me the opposite of a micromanager.

What is the key to retaining good employees?
Positive reinforcement. Every employee needs to be praised for a job well done in order to feel like a key player.

What is the biggest threat to the converting industry right now?
Overcapacity, which is due to more efficient machinery. Market growth has not kept up with the production capabilities of our high-tech equipment.

What is the best advice you ever got?
As a young man, my father taught me to practice empathy, accept diversity, and treat employees as family members.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
The converting industry has a great history and someone starting out in this business should learn from it. Employees on the shop floor are the backbone of the company, and their guidance is often overlooked.

At a Glance
Colbert Packaging Corp.
28355 N. Bradley Rd.
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Founded 1959
4 plants; 250 employees
Folding cartons, labels, rigid set-up boxes, contact packaging, and specialty paperboard products.

What is the worst advice you ever got?
Always purchase the cheapest motel room on a business trip!

Do you have a personal hero?
I have a friend who started out as a customer years ago. I have had the opportunity to witness his business success and to admire his family values. Steve has always been involved in community service; recently he extended that community to South Africa where he adopted a village in need. I believe the world could use a few heroes who challenge themselves by caring for others.

What are you most proud of in your business?
Recently, Colbert Packaging was awarded its first patent. A new product line represents creativity, teamwork, increased financial stability, and client satisfaction.

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