Bob Landaal spent summers during high school and college working in his grandfather’s plant at Landaal Packaging Systems, originally founded in 1959 as Flint Boxmakers. But after graduating from Western Michigan University in 1998, Bob was done with the family business.
Or so he thought.
“Four years into working for someone else, a lightbulb went off,” Bob says. “I thought – this is great, but it would be better if I could offer my skills to help my family.”
So in 2001, he joined the full-service packaging company as a management trainee, moving up to vice president of marketing and sales in 2009.
And when his uncle Steve Landaal retires next year, Bob will step in as the company’s president, ready to lead the full-service packaging company alongside his fellow third-generation family members: brothers Mark and Matt and cousins Jay and Steve Jr.
Tell us about Landaal Packaging.
We design and manufacture packaging, pack our client’s product, and distribute it to wherever it needs to go around the world.
Who are your mentors?
What’s one of the biggest challenges that you have encountered during your career?
Why does that particular moment stand out to you?
A lot of lives were impacted. We had to lay off a lot of people – including some of our long-term employees – because we couldn’t afford to employ them. That was the worst part. It really hit home for us the importance of customer diversification.
Who are your customers?
When my grandfather started the company, General Motors and its subsidiaries were thriving. We cut our teeth in the auto industry working for manufacturers and suppliers – our first client was AC Spark Plug Company. Gradually, we diversified. With a plant in Bay City, we serve a lot of food processors and agricultural companies in the area. And our sustainable product offerings and retail point-of-purchase displays diversify us as well. We don’t want one industry to represent more than 25 percent of revenue.
How is Flint as a business location?
Growing up in the city was a blast. There’s something about the passion of the people who continue to call Flint home – this don’t-give-up mentality that I’m proud of and others are, too. And the business climate is healthy. We’ve got a good labor force that wants to work, stay in the area and raise a family. Flint’s geography also is desirable. We’re in a great spot for distributing goods since many products stay east of the Rocky Mountains. Not to mention it’s a breeze flying out of Bishop Airport to visit customers.
Where do you hang out in Flint?
It’s been awesome to see the restaurant scene revitalize with places like Blackstone’s, 501 Bar and Grill and Flint Crepe Company. I’m a craft beer snob, so places like Tenacity and Table & Tap are great. And moving the Flint Farmers’ Market downtown was one of the best changes in the city. I can walk from my office downtown, get fresh air and have a great lunch – it’s a beautiful thing.
Has the water crisis impacted your business?
Only our downtown design center is impacted, though we don’t use much water. We have a water filter on our tap and bottled water. From a big-picture standpoint, I think the crisis is going to do a lot of good for our community. When you set aside the negative, it brings our community closer, we’re looking out for each other and people want to give. It’s been a tremendous opportunity to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, dust ourselves off and figure out how to turn lemons into lemonade. That’s what we do in Flint.
To learn more about Landaal Packaging, visit www.landaal.com.