AGAM Spotlight – Xavier Decludt, Founder and President

AGAM founder and president, Xavier , was the driving force in bringing the AGAM Aluminum Modular System to the United States in 1983. As Decludt describes it, “with humble beginnings and a key business philosophy of empowering employees,” Decludt brought a new concept, modularity, and a new material, aluminum, to the display industry in America.

The company grew, regardless of the recessions in 2001 and 2007. It was through the innovation that pushed businesses during the recessions to re-evaluate their business models that AGAM flourished.

Decludt has led AGAM on a dynamic path for the past three decades, creating an environment that supports current employees while actively seeking the best in young talent. As a result, AGAM continues to innovate in new product development, leading the aluminum modular system industry and creating trends, while also providing the most effective solutions to common client problems.

Decludt, who is originally from France, insisted on bringing his company to the United States because of its entrepreneurial spirit.  The United States is notorious for being open to new businesses, ideas, and thought leaders, which is precisely what AGAM is, a thought leader.

Below is a conversation Decludt had with his business banker. It summarizes exactly how Decludt runs AGAM and how the community views him – reliable, precise, and knowledgable.

Is the president of AGAM a dinosaur? Or, more exactly, is AGAM a dinosaur? We’ll let you decide for yourselves.

Here is an abstract of a conversation between Xavier Decludt, founder and president of AGAM and his business banker, during a tour of the AGAM facility.

Banker: You know, Xavier, there is something I really like about your business. It’s that I understand exactly what you do. You receive raw material, process it and ship it in boxes and or on pallets. I can see it with my own two eyes.

Xavier: Well, if it were only that simple…What AGAM has today is the result of several years developing and fine-tuning a business model that is geared toward our customers.

Banker: What amazes me most compared to other clients of mine is that I physically see on the floor what I read in your financials. I see bundles and bundles of aluminum extrusions, and I see an extensive parts room with bins full of accessories and screws.

Xavier: As the industry got more sophisticated, we had to acquire new technology and gain new areas of expertise. We bought complex machinery and equipment, one at a time. We developed and mastered each new process before moving onto the next big transformation. This practice required many years of extensive training for our employees, some even traveling out-of-state for weeks at a time. This progression does not happen overnight, this is a daily discipline, and a team effort, requiring patience from our employees, customers, and suppliers.

Banker: Yes, I see that machinery and equipment is a growing asset in your balance sheet. But, can you explain why you did not pause during the recession and instead continued buying equipment? This is kind of odd, isn’t it?

Xavier: There is a simple logic behind that. I believe when times are good, you have to remember that a slowdown period is around the corner. When the economy is challenging, you need to prepare for the time of recovery, because there is always a recovery and you better be ready. If takes time to develop new products, to become proficient in new manufacturing techniques, so you better start during the recession. What I have learned from past recessions such as in 2001 is that the market shifts and opportunities are here to be grabbed — AGAM is ready to respond to the new expectations from the market.

Banker: So, where do you see the economy heading?

Xavier: Awe, the million dollar question…We can read all day long in various newspapers and magazines the confidential outlook as disclosed by experts, dampened that things are not turing around and not getting back to where they were. But, I think most of our customers strategically maneuver through these difficult times and AGAM is like them. We are not an aircraft carrier; we are capable of adapting and adjusting quickly. Just like the economy, the way we do business is never going to go back to where it was. It will be different. We have a lot of customers who acknowledge this new economy. And quite frankly, I am impressed by how they have restructured their business models to be quite successful in these new times.

Banker: Can you be more precise? I have so many customers who complain of meager margins and negative growth.

Xavier: Of course, in the world, you cannot hide behind a computer screen. Instead you have to get your feet wet. I see people taking charge; instead of shuffling a couple of emails I see people analyzing their customers’ needs, taking the time to listen, and preparing unique solutions. I see our customers working very closely with their vendors, making sure they deliver a valuable and yet affordable product. And sure enough, they end up being successful in the marketplace.

Banker: Well, you definitely do not do things the way most of my clients do, but I can tell that from your financials with solid and steady growth, and plenty of new machines in your building. Are you planning to buy more of these in 2015?

Xavier: Absolutely! Int he past few years, we bought another double head cutting center, we bought a new oven for our paint line, and we just purchased another extrusion machining center, just to mention a few key new additions. And in 2015, we have multiple fields of expertise we will get into, providing more valuable technologies and services to our customers.

Banker[whispering to his colleague] This is definitely not happening every day; sort of a dinosaur, wouldn’t you agree?

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