WOOSTER, Ohio – As Ben Maibach ’00 gets ready to take over as president of The Wooster Brush Company, a manufacturer of paint applicators with 600 employees and 2,000 products, it marks a culmination of 20 years of developing a strong business acumen to complement his inquisitive nature and second-to-none people skills. Those who know the affable Maibach may contend he was born with the latter qualities and was always meant to handle such a leadership role, but he credits the education and experiences he received at The College of Wooster for greatly enhancing those abilities.
“Wooster was a big part of that. Educationally, what I really liked was number one the small class sizes. I’m one who likes to ask questions. That’s how I learn, and Wooster provided lots of opportunities for classroom discussions in an intimate setting. That was huge for me. It helped me learn how to ask better questions,” Maibach said.
Wooster’s Independent Study program was the perfect fit. He continued, “I.S. is the culmination of that, endless questions you have when you pick a topic and having a one-on-one mentorship goes a long way in getting you over hurdles quickly.” The business economics major jokes when looking back at his I.S.—“Advertising as a Determinate of Firm Profitability: An Empirical Study Differentiating Search and Experience Goods” —that “someone much smarter than myself wrote it,” but also admitted that it forced him “to think differently and to think deeper.”
Developing those critical thinking skills has served Maibach well throughout a career that has seen him rise from various sales and marketing roles at Newell Rubbermaid, Moen, and the Waxman Consumer Group to vice president of national accounts for four years at Wooster Brush. Though humbled in becoming just the 10th president in Wooster Brush’s rich 170-year history, Maibach is not overwhelmed because he plans to continue to ask the right questions. “There are people with lots of tenure all throughout our organization. I have to lead, but I don’t have to have all the answers because we have such good people. My job is to cast a vision and let all the smart people (here) do their job,” he said.
Anyone chosen to head an organization with 600 employees has to have demonstrated good judgment and leadership. In some ways, that skillset began for Maibach as a student at Wooster, when he served as a captain of the Fighting Scots’ highly-successful baseball program and a resident assistant. Back then, he would lead his peers through setting an example of hard work, thinking “if you can lead without using your authority that goes a long ways.” Certainly true, but his style has evolved. “When it comes to business, you have to expand on that by identifying everyone’s strengths and applying them accordingly and also helping people with the obstacles that come their way,” he explained.
His time at Wooster paired with the various experiences on his résumé has Maibach well prepared to lead Wooster Brush into the future, one that he thinks will be fueled by maintaining what is a rare culture in business these days. “We value people, more than anything that’s what Wooster Brush is about. It’s helping that culture continue to grow that is just as important as being a successful salesperson,” he remarked. “We really care about people, and live it every day. We haven’t laid anybody off since 1954. That gives me the motivation to keep working hard every day, not just for the employees but for their 600 families.”