Adoptions 101: How a Growing Family Taught Us to Lead

Barry-Wehmiller recently celebrated an important milestone in our history.

Earlier this year, we acquired our 101st company. That large number of companies blended into the Barry-Wehmiller family says a lot about the success of our business, but it means so much more than that. It’s a statement of how far we’ve come, not only in understanding business, but in understanding the powerful intersection of good business practices and good people practices.

You may have heard our story before. I’ve written about it often on this blog. Barry-Wehmiller was a broken company when my father gained full ownership in the 1950s. After his death in the early 1970s, I was able to bring the company to new heights, but that came to a halt as the brewing industry changed in the early 1980s.

Our goal is to inspire the team to envision a better future for their people and a path to build that future Click To TweetBy then, we realized we needed to expand into new markets and products. However, the company’s fragile financial condition meant that an acquisition failure would have meant the collapse of the entire company. When we began implementing our acquisition strategy, our focus was on struggling companies that we felt we had the insights to improve, as we had our historic business.

Today, our historic business is only $10 million of our $3 billion business. Barry-Wehmiller has grown to nearly 12,000 team members at 100-plus locations in 28 countries. Through every one of our 100-plus acquisitions – or adoptions as I like to call them- our goal is to inspire the team to envision a better future for their people and a path to build that future.

While Barry-Wehmiller was growing rapidly through adoptions, we had many experiences that were re-shaping our thinking about leadership. We came to see that leadership was more than just creating value. We came to see that the way we lead impacts the way people live. This opened our eyes to the profound responsibility—and privilege– of leadership. Thus began our fervent commitment to creating a sustainable business that not only gave people a future but also offered them meaning and fulfillment through their contributions.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that several years ago, we produced a short documentary telling our story, based on my book, “Everybody Matters.” In celebration of our 100-plus adoptions milestone, we’re now releasing our documentary more widely so that others can learn about what it means to be a Truly Human Leader. Feel free to host a viewing party, post on your social channels, or simply pop up a bag of popcorn and enjoy a story of business as a force for good.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.


  • Kit Tennis says:

    101 companies, 100+ locations, 28 countries, 12000 team members — It’s starting to feel exponential, Bob! What I love about this curve is all the people who are coming into the B-W culture and the beautiful ripple effect that has on their families, their communities, and all the businesses and people they touch!

  • Todd Stout says:

    Congratulations on your 101st adoption and thank you for the general release of your video! We’re a small public safety software company that is celebrating our 20th year in business, and until I read your book, Everybody Matters, my biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be able to grow without ‘losing ourselves’. Thank You for showing that it’s possible!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *