Industry Loses Leading Mentor

Paul Schubert's passing prompts memories of a man who spent his career helping his customers and employees succeed.

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On April 27, the rental industry lost one of its most well-known, influential and supportive members when Paul L. Schubert passed on. He was known by family, friends and associates for his loyalty and respect as well as for his desire and ability to help others.

Born June 18, 1934 in Baltimore, MD, Paul began his business career as a "jobsite" tool salesman for a contractor equipment dealer in Philadelphia. He went on to hold several managerial positions with several leading manufacturers of cutting, sawing and drilling products for the construction industry. In 1976, Paul joined the ACC Corp. as national sales manager and by 1979 was promoted to vice president and general manager.

In 1983, Paul founded Pro-Cut Products Inc. and guided the company to a prominent position in the U.S. construction industry. In so doing, many believe that Paul was the most instrumental force in introducing diamond blades to rental companies.

Paul sold Pro-Cut to the Norton Co. in 1989, while retaining his position as president and chief operating officer. In 1992, he was promoted to director of marketing, Norton Superabrasive Division, and in February 1993, he assumed additional duties as Norton sales training director, North America Operations.

The customer is the boss

Paul built his career on the notion that a company’s goals and initiatives should be based on customers’ needs and not on balance sheet performance. It’s due in part to this philosophy that when many of his friends and associates recall his career, they remember the way he supported his customers and employees.

"Paul respected his employees, his customers, his associates and in return, he was highly respected by all," says Jim Rhoades, Paul’s friend of 35 years and Pro-Cut rep covering Indiana, Kentucky and southwest Ohio. "If you had an idea, he would listen, and if your idea was one that could produce a better way of helping a customer grow and be a better person, it got done. He would never ask you to do something he would not do himself. His customers were the boss."

The consummate coach

Paul’s ability to listen to others was part of what gained him so much respect, notes Lew Hudson, president of Lew Hudson Sales, who’s been Paul’s friend for over 20 years. "He had an unbelievable ability to build relationships and to motivate others. He really knew how to bring out the best in people."

Hudson also remembers Paul as an intensely loyal individual. "He was one of the most loyal friends you could have," he says. "When he sold Pro-Cut, he required the new owners -who he selected himself -to keep all his employees, especially his sales force."

Laurie Schubert, Paul’s wife of 17 years, adds, "When he sold Pro-Cut, he was so devoted to making sure his reps were taken care of, that they were heard. Outside of his family, nothing meant more to him than his relationship with his reps."

After selling Pro-Cut, Paul refused to retire, but opted instead to give something back to the industry that had made him prosperous. Since 1996, Paul was a sales and marketing consultant to companies serving the rental and distribution industries. Starting in 1998, he began writing his Schubert’s Standpoint column for Rental Product News, which he continued to do until his passing.

Throughout his career, according to friends and associates, Paul was not driven by personal accolades or money.

"He never took credit for the success of his company," Hudson says. "He always gave credit to his sales staff."

He adds, "I served on [the Pro-Cut] advisory board for many years and Paul never talked about profits. His philosophy was to build his company around assisting his customers and helping them make a profit. His company in turn made a profit due to his customers’ success."

Rhoades agrees: "Paul’s passion for his work was driven by money -not the money he could or would make -but the profitability his customers could earn using his methods, suggestions and training. Paul cared about those hundreds and thousands of customers who purchased and/or used his products. He consistently strove to make his products better than others, not just a ‘me too’ product."

Throughout his career, Paul took great pride in teaching and helping others.

"He was a gifted sales and marketing professional and an excellent trainer," says Hudson. "He was a tremendous coach and motivator."

Al Harrison, Paul’s friend for over 25 years and Pro-Cut rep for New York, recalls that Paul was also the consummate salesman, but was more concerned for the good of his customers than he was for furthering his career.

"He could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but that’s not what he would do," Harrison says. "He would not sell things to people that they didn’t need... People had a lot of respect for him because he had a lot of respect for them."

Industry recognizes Schubert’s support

During his 40-year career in sales, Paul received numerous honors and awards, including branch and regional manager of the year awards on five separate occasions. He was selected to present the "State of the Industry" address at the Speciality Tool and Fastener Distributor Association’s (STAFDA) national convention in 1983 and he served a three-year term on STAFDA’s Manufacturer Liaison Board, including one year as chairman. Paul received the National Special Service Award, the American Rental Association’s (ARA) highest honor, in 1989, and he served on the manufacturer liaison committees of both the ARA and the California Rental Association.

Paul was nominated and listed in the U.S. Registry of Who’s Who in Leading American Executives, 1992 and in 1994 was the first manufacturer to be elected to the board of directors of the ARA, serving as spokesman for the 987 corporations that manufacture products sold to the American rental industry.

In addition, Paul has written more than a dozen feature editorials for national trade magazines serving the construction industry and has produced two video training cassettes for ARA and STAFDA members.

"God, country and family"

Outside of his professional career, Paul kept himself busy with volunteer work. He was very involved with the Boys Scouts of America, having served as drug chairman. In this capacity, he traveled the Dallas area speaking to Boy Scout troops and presenting the "Drugs a Deadly Game" program. He also volunteered with the Paralyzed Veterans of America Association in Dallas and Fort Worth, contributed to Habitat for Humanity and worked weekly with the Visual Blind Society. He served as youth coach, counselor and advisor to hundreds of boys through the Optimist International Club. He also sponsored two children in Chile for over 10 years.

While in Maryland, Paul founded the Randallstown Optimist Football Program and for nine years led his team to over 150 wins and only six losses. His Randallstown Mustangs won the National Pop Warner Championship in 1971. Overheard at a reunion of over 30 of those players, on Dec. 1, 2000: "Coach set the standard to which we held our own parents," and "Today, everyone accepts nothing but the best because of you."

A veteran of the Korean War who served for two years in the Army at Fort Hood, TX, "Paul believed in serving God, country and family," says his wife, Laurie. "He was very religious, intensely patriotic and an extremely devoted and loyal husband and father."

In his personal life, Paul had a passion for sports and was a lifelong athlete who was voted the most valuable athlete in high school where he was the only four-sport letterman. Unknown to many is that he almost took a path that would have led him in a much different direction than the one he ultimately chose.

>"He had a tryout with the Baltimore Orioles and they offered to sign him to a minor league contract," Laurie recalls. "But Paul turned it down, deciding that it was more important to make a living that could support a family."

In addition to his wife and many friends, Paul leaves behind a daughter, Debra G. Schubert of Baltimore; son Paul L. Schubert of Detroit; grandson Greg V. Schubert of Detroit; a brother, Earl P. Schubert of Annapolis, MD; and many other loving family members.

In both his personal and professional endeavors, Paul’s friends and family agree that his life was centered on helping others be the best that they could be. While the impact he made is impossible to quantify, there is no doubt that his contributions were great and his passing will leave a significant void in the Schubert family and the rental industry as a whole.

"I will miss him, but not nearly as much as his wife, his family and his family of friends and customers who now must go on without his leadership," says Rhoades. "Our captain has left the building."