We sat down with Kevin Sheehan to discuss the project he worked on this summer as a Summer Associate and his overall experience as a HBM employee. Read on to discover the most important skill he gained from our program — and why his role at HBM was so rewarding.
Can you summarize your summer project? What were your general roles and responsibilities?
KS: I worked on improving the inventory visibility at Tru-Flex, one of our portfolio companies. In that role, I helped with the setup of process improvements — sometimes that meant changes to existing processes, and other times it involved the creation of new processes. As part of that project, we leveraged the existing ERP system Tru-Flex had in place and we also began installing barcode scanners. The whole place isn’t bar-coded yet, but we’ve started down that road. It was rewarding to implement a process and actually see it have a tangible effect — versus making recommendations that may or may not get implemented at some point.
During your project work, did you have an opportunity to interact with the senior leaders at HBM and the portfolio company?
KS: Yes — the level of interaction was great. On a day-to-day basis at the portfolio company, I’d be talking with a wide range of people, from an operator on the floor to the GM of the plant. Toward the end of the project, I also interacted with Tru-Flex’s CEO. And throughout, I had the backing of all the leadership here at HBM.
Were there any aspects of your project that you found challenging?
KS: I worked hard to visualize the impacts of anything we implemented before it was actually done. You need to grasp how small changes could have big effects throughout the entire plant. That requires an understanding of everything that happens along the way, from the first step to the very end when the parts ship. It’s tough to predict how it’s going to work and determine the steps needed to ensure success. But it’s gratifying to see how small implementations make a difference in how a business operates.
What’s the most important skill you gained from your experience at HBM?
KS: I now have a greater appreciation for the importance of gaining trust and building rapport with your project stakeholders. It’s critical to demonstrate that your ideas have value, and get those stakeholders to trust you at your word. I have experience in the military, which has a structure based on rank. Trust and rapport didn’t matter so much — you just listened to the officer ahead of you. But that’s not the case in the business world, and this experience gave me a clearer picture of how to make stakeholder relationships work.
Please describe HBM’s culture. What did you enjoy about it?
KS: It’s very independent and trusting — and also very supportive. If you need anything, there’s always someone to reach out to. They give you leeway to go out and do whatever you believe you need to do. No one’s calling to check on you, which is pretty nice to have. However, if you encounter situations where you need help, all you have to do is ask.
It was also great getting to know the other interns and the rest of the HBM team. It’s a very fun culture to be a part of. People don’t act like they’re forced to work together. They really enjoy each other’s company.
What were your impressions of St. Louis?
KS: I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked. But when I did, I was impressed with the MetroLink and I also had fun at a couple Cardinal games. The food’s very good here, especially the barbeque. I’m from Chicago — St. Louis is a little smaller, but it’s definitely a cool town I could see myself living in again.
Did your experience as a Summer Associate meet your expectations?
KS: My experience exceeded my expectations. The amount of responsibility HBM gave us from day one was probably more than I expected, and I mean that in a good way. There was no hand-holding, and I really liked that, especially because they had a strong support structure to fall back on. HBM’s approach seemed to be, “We’re going to treat you like you’re a full-time associate, so go forth and do great things — but if you need help, you can come ask us at any time.”