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Bill Theby has worked in his family's business, Lensing Building Specialties, since graduating from the University of Dayton in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree.

theby headshotIn 1989, Bill assumed the role of Vice President with the responsibility for the Architectural Sales division of the company. In 2009, he became President of Lensing and, effective July 1st, 2018, assumed the role of CEO. In 2018, Lensing Building Specialties is celebrating 70 years in business, with its roots traced back to 1873 when family members emigrated from Germany and started a contracting and supply business. 

Bill has been a member of the Board of Advisors for the USI Romain College of Business for several years. He is involved with several community organizations, including chair of the Family Business Alliance with the Southwest Indiana Chamber, serves on the Evansville Industrial Foundation, served on the United Way Campaign Cabinet, is a member of Rotary Club, and is a community director for Old National Bank on its Evansville Region Board. Bill has also been active with Holy Rosary Church and Memorial High School in various fund raising capacities. Bill and his wife, Patty, have two children: Matt, who is active in the family business; and David, who also graduated from the University of Dayton and lives in the Toledo, Ohio area.

What is your connection to USI, and what makes the Romain College of Business special to you?
I met Dr. Khayum shortly after he became dean of the USI College of Business. We continued to cross paths at various community events, and when I was extended an invitation to join the Board of Advisors, it was an easy decision. Observing, and in a small way helping with the growth of, the College of Business and the University has been very rewarding.

When the college became the Romain College of Business, it was fitting because it is hard to find a more ardent supporter of USI than Ron Romain. I have known Ron since Little League baseball. I have experienced firsthand his commitment to make the Romain College of Business the best it can be.

What attributes make a person successful in your industry?
First and foremost, ethics. Without ethics, you may succeed in the short run but eventually it catches up to you. Good communication skills are needed to clearly state your ideas and vision. Perseverance is required because things are not always going to go your way. If it is important, you need to continue pushing forward. Self-confidence in yourself and your ideas, and the courage of your convictions to speak up when it is easier to just go along. Be empathetic to those around you. The most successful people are those who care about, and are concerned for, the people they work with, their friends, their community. Be fair in how your treat others and be aware of how your conduct is perceived by others particularly in difficult situations.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were in college?
In my case, it was how to balance the social and the academics. I didn't do a particularly good job on the academics. My parents did say "Bill learned a lot about life". I should have had a little more focus on my studies.

What advice would you give a recent college graduate?
Your education does not stop now that you have graduated. Learn from the people around you. Even the people you may not like can teach you valuable lessons. Get involved in your community in some way. Join a board, coach, do something that gets you out of your work environment and allows you to relax.

There is a balance between work and life. When you are starting out, your work life will inconvenience your family life. You have to find the right balance, but be aware to grow in your career because it most likely will affect your family life.

Have some fun in what you are doing. Nothing is worse than working in a job you do not like. We all have our bad days. If every day is a bad day, then you are probably not where you need to be.

What are some of the challenges you see your industry facing in the short-term and in the long-term?
In the building materials business, I am seeing continued consolidation. I do not foresee this changing until we have another substantial downturn.

Finding people is a challenge in our industry. There are a number of great opportunities in the building supply business for top notch people. We need to do a better job of advertising these opportunities.

What's the most effective daily habit you possess?
I firmly believe in the power of ''management by walking around". I try to walk through our facilities 2-3 times a week. This interaction with staff and team members allows me to connect with the front line on business concerns and family issues. I can't count the number of times a vendor or customer has commented that I know everyone's name. It is important to me that I know something about the people who make Lensing successful.

What factors do you consider most often when planning for the future?
How do we stay profitable? How do the decisions we make impact the business 3-5 years from now? What is the impact on the family? What is the impact on the families of the 145 individuals we employ? What is the impact on our customers? Who are our customers/vendors now, and who will they be 3-5 years from now? How do we make changes? How do we communicate what we do to the various stakeholders? How do we find the right people to take us where we need to go?

What topic could you spend hours talking about?
Family businesses. I have been living it my whole life. Family businesses do not get the publicity that large publicly-held corporations do although they are the backbone of our country. Family businesses create jobs and they create wealth. We support community services and not-for-profits with products, dollars, and talent. On the whole, we do a poor job of publicizing the importance of these activities, or the contributions made by family-owned businesses.

Spending holidays with the family members you work with and with shareholders means you are probably talking about the business, or some aspect of it, at most gatherings. In many cases the business holds the family together; and in others, it is a wedge that can split it apart. I could go on and on.

Published October 2, 2018