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125 Year Company History
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Introduction
Coming to America
Hard Work
Persistence
Second Generation
Great Depression
Home Front
Postwar World
Big Flood
Turning Point
Rebuilding
New Location
New Technology
Leadership for the Future
Rebuilding, Revitalization and Refocusing
Starting in late 1957, Robert Linsmayer took charge as the new president of Villaume and began a process of rebuilding and refocusing the company. Linsmayer, who was married to Eugene Villaume's granddaughter Christine, had been brought into the company in 1951 and became its general operations manager three years later. A navy veteran, he was trained as an engineer and metallurgist and had been employed at several different corporations before he joined Villaume. When Robert Linsmayer started work at Villaume, boxes for shipping bottles of beer were the major product, his son Nick commented years later. "My Dad was an engineer at heart, and he was in the wood business. He was able to put the two together." Determined to chart a new course for the company, Robert Linsmayer organized a big meeting of administrative personnel, supervisors, and foremen at the Riverview Commercial Club on December 18, 1957. After a complimentary dinner, he started a participatory discussion of the company and how things could be improved. He suggested that the company had "patterns of doing things the hard way.... If you sum up old machinery that isn't changed, old practices that aren't changed, and management that isn't interested ... you get a hodgepodge of things where there isn't any reward for putting any thought or action in it." More than one person at that meeting said that in the past, top company officials seldom came onto the plant floor and if they did, they rarely even said "good morning." "We don't get that from Bob," one foreman with thirty years seniority said. "We can come down here, we can argue with him, we can tell him our points and he can argue back with us and there's no hard feelings.” In addition to introducing a new approach to managing the company that promoted worker satisfaction along with increased production, Linsmayer continued the core company function of box making, and added a new line of pallets, skids, and custom-designed wood packaging. Thanks to his engineering background, he was aware of developing technologies for custom manufacturing in housing construction. Modem roof trusses turned out to be the most important addition that he made to the company's product line. Up until then, trusses were being held together with a plywood mechanism. Villaume started to pioneer the use of metal connector plates called "Gizmo Gussets," which an old navy friend of Linsmayer's had invented, in holding trusses together. The manufacturing of roof trusses began to revitalize the Villaume Box and Lumber Company.