Eriez announced that Chet Giermak, who served as the company’s president and CEO from 1971 to 2003, died on March 16. “Chet was a great man who has left an indelible mark on Eriez’ business, people and culture,” said Eriez President and CEO Tim Shuttleworth. “His legacy lives on at Eriez every day.”
Giermak blended lessons from his days as a two-time All-American college basketball player at William and Mary together with his business acumen and applied them successfully during his 33-year tenure as Eriez President and CEO. From the moment he joined Eriez, he began to gather an incredible team around him. In a 2012 article, Giermak stated that the greatest legacy he left to Eriez is the team he left behind to succeed him ¬– a commitment he made to Eriez’ Board of Directors.
“Chet’s active, hands-on managerial style led him to walk through the offices and plant on a daily basis talking with as many employees as possible,” said Charlie Ingram, Eriez vice president of sales and marketing. “Able to address every employee by name, he maintained an ‘open door’ policy that encouraged any company employee to come in and discuss any issue with him at any time.”
Along with the respect he accorded every employee, Giermak also treated everyone with an uncommon degree of trust. He ordered time clocks removed “as a way of saying to our people that we trust them to arrive and leave at designated times.” He then removed all bells and buzzers that signaled start and quit times and coffee breaks “in Pavlovian fashion.” He also eliminated the mandatory vacation during summer shut-down, opting to trust each individual to determine his or her own vacation schedule.
Giermak also introduced a variety of improvement programs – from first-aid instruction to blueprint reading classes and from financial planning sessions to pre-retirement seminars. A free counseling program was put in place to help employees and their family members deal with estate and personal problems.
He initiated a 10-year program to first limit and then eliminate smoking at Eriez. In 1986 the company began a policy of hiring only non-smokers, and later announced there would be a completely smoke-free environment at the company by July 1, 1992.
Giermak was also active in both industry organizations and community affairs.