HERStory | Kendra Cruson
Meet Kendra – Owner/Chief Operating Officer at Vale Industries
When Kendra entered the manufacturing sector in 1994, she wasn’t familiar with the industry. However, it didn’t take her very long to realize how exciting manufacturing is. Seeing an idea sketched on a napkin evolve into a product was fascinating to her.
Kendra left the industry to gain other experience, with a plan in mind to own a manufacturing business with her husband. That dream happened in 2020 with the purchase of Vale Industries.
Kendra’s current role as Vale’s Chief Operating Officer supports all elements of the business. Specifically, she is responsible for administration, finance, strategic human resources, purchasing, and planning.
What led to me to the manufacturing sector:
My very first job in manufacturing was in data entry. Shortly after I started, I was given a promotion to the marketing department. In this first job in manufacturing, I was given many opportunities in several departments. These opportunities gave me a great perspective on all that manufacturing has to offer. It was during this time that I met my now husband, Pieter who shares the same passion about continuous improvement and love for manufacturing!
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection,” Mark Twain.
3 words to describe manufacturing:
Innovative, creative, and addictive.
What continues to attract me to a career in manufacturing:
Our business is diversified in a couple of markets which helps to handle the cyclical downturns in our industry. The complexity of the business keeps us looking for more effective and efficient solutions to the problems that we face. And there is so much to learn! Even now, after 30 years in the business, we are learning new things all the time.
We both have a desire to lead our team well and invest in training so that we can grow together. There is something new to solve or celebrate everyday.
Opportunities for women entering a manufacturing career:
The list is limitless. From welders, painters, material handlers, production planners, engineers, and more, women can do anything within the manufacturing sphere. I truly believe that. It’s an industry that can take you to places you never dreamed of.
Importance of mentors:
The mentors in my life have been extremely important. My granny for example, was tough as nails and served her community. I learned so much from her. She was always on the run doing something for someone else. Nothing stopped her.
From a business perspective, I’ve had a couple of mentors who helped me grow. It’s so valuable to have somebody in your corner when you are learning or trying something new. Even if they don’t necessarily possess the exact expertise, they can ask you questions that you sometimes forget to ask yourself in the excitement or stress of it all.
When you think of a sports team, the coach brings so much value. They’re not doing the work, they’re not making the plays, but they’re so critical in setting a vision for what the team is going to work towards and ensures that everyone is going in the same direction. Both inside and outside my business, I think it’s important to give back and lift other people up with support and advice.
How I’m an agent of change:
I see myself as an agent of change, often acting as the catalyst for the change management process. By identifying what is not working, I work hard to inspire the team to standardize their processes and document them. The Plan – Do – Check – Act methodology helps transform how we do our work, and increases the quality of the output, regardless of the department where the work is happening. Being able to change is important but the execution is what I’ve built my career on.
Fun fact about myself:
About 10 years ago, my husband and I both left our jobs, packed one bag each, and toured 23 countries for a year. The lessons were endless. My number one takeaway from that experience is to embrace people that are different from you. You can learn a lot from each other!