Not many people bridge the gap between the sales and technical teams quite like Frank Wawrzos. Then again, our new sales director—for both North and South America—has a distinct background. He has:
- A chemistry degree and an MBA with a concentration in finance
- 30 years of experience spanning research and development as well as marketing and sales
- A passion for profits with a desire for product innovation
But what truly separates Frank from others is how he merges his diverse experience with other people to find better ways to bring our customers the borates they need.
Determined from the start
Driven is an apt way to describe Frank. In college, an instructor told him he wasn’t good at chemistry. He took that personally, proving her wrong by earning a chemistry degree from Elmhurst College outside of Chicago while working full-time and taking night classes.
That drive led to his first job as a polymer chemist, where he honed his skills and earned a few patents.
After that, he transitioned to materials and took a job as a formulation chemist at a major construction input company. For eight years, he worked on paint formulations, caulks, sealants, and joint compound products.
There he discovered that true innovation lies beyond the lab. It requires listening to your customers’ needs and applying that feedback to develop new solutions.
Solving the cratering conundrum
Early in his career, Frank left the lab and met customers in the field to solve a longstanding cratering problem in the drywall industry.
For years, drywall finishers squirted an ad-hoc soap mixture to combat cratering. Instead of dismissing them, Frank became curious. Was there something in the soaps that could fix the problem without compromising the product’s warranty?
After returning to the lab with fresh insight, Frank pinpointed the family of surfactants responsible for fixing the issue.
His findings led to a patent and saved the company millions of dollars.
“Listening to your customers drives a whole lot for an organization,” says Frank. “Having a strong relationship with our customer gives me the opportunity to drive innovation and ultimately be more successful in turning those ideas and concepts into solutions that the market needs.”
From R&D to marketing and sales
In September 2018, Frank joined U.S. Borax as a technical marketing manager. His extensive commercial materials experience—from construction to oil to industrial minerals—made him a natural fit for the borates business. But his inclusive nature made him the right choice for our culture.
“Collaboration is really one of the things that drew me to U.S. Borax,” Frank says. “The relationship between departments and being one team, working together to meet the goals of the market. We’ve really adopted that one-team approach.”
Frank proved his commitment to collaboration when he revamped our innovation pipeline. Our R&D pipeline is designed to drive new projects from concept to commercialization.
Past projects suffered from an outdated process that didn’t encourage collaboration. Information wasn’t shared openly, and the right stakeholders weren’t involved—making buy-in difficult to secure. Frank’s technical team changed that.
The new process invites stakeholders from multiple departments to participate. It prioritizes projects based on key metrics and value. These changes not only spur innovation but also strengthen our product stewardship practices, making it easier to navigate evolving regulations in the market.
“The borates business can be challenging at times for innovation,” explains Frank. “We are now able to navigate difficult areas while improving our ability to meet customer needs.”
Breaking down departmental siloes and bringing people together became especially important during the pandemic when supply chains experienced major disruption. Frank is quick to credit his team, but his leadership helped build strong relationships both internally and externally.
Spurring future innovation
As Frank transitions to his new sales role, he sees many opportunities to apply his experience and include experts across our company to find better ways of operating.
High on his list of priorities is identifying and developing new growth areas, such as battery materials.
However, it’s not only about the new; strengthening what’s already working will be critical to success. That includes looking at how to better serve existing applications and industries.
Of course, keeping close relationships with customers is central to all innovation. Frank will keep investing in forging mutually beneficial lasting partnerships with customers.
“If you’re going to remain viable into the future, you really need to find a trustworthy partner,” says Frank. “You must be able to rely on them and develop mutually. We want to be a partner that not only supplies the highest value products, but when there’s an opportunity, we are the first ones they call.”
Frank will be there to answer that call, doing what he does best: Listening and applying his diverse experience to provide solutions.
“Over my career, it’s been a passion to show that technical people can succeed in marketing and sales,” Frank says. “People with experience on both sides can do pretty amazing things.”
Frank and his wife