Interview with Donald A. Bolin, CEO at VanTran
Donald A. Bolin has been involved in the transformer and electrical industry his entire career, spanning more than three decades. Don founded and ran a successful electrical sales agency in Houston, Texas, while remaining active in his family’s privately held business, VanTran Industries, Inc., located in Waco, Texas. He held the position of CFO at VanTran from 2011 – 2016 and served on the Board of Directors for many years before becoming CEO in 2016. Don holds a BBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin
VanTran is a privately held manufacturer of liquid filled distribution transformers ranging in size from 5 kVA to 10 MVA. The company has gained a reputation for providing high quality transformers for demanding environments and applications and delivering product on time. It was founded in 1963 by my father, Al Bolin, and a group of other transformer veterans in Vandalia, Illinois. Al was an electrical engineer and transformer designer and had worked for several large transformer companies. In the early sixties, he and few of his colleagues became frustrated with the mentality of the industry, so they went out and started their own transformer manufacturing business. Their modus operandi was not to cheapen the design but to have exceptional quality and longevity of the product; they wanted to give the customers what they needed. My father died in April of 2016. He worked up until the day before he died at the age of 89. He never stopped making transformers – it was his passion. I think that he really passed this passion on to me because there is nothing that excites me more than to talk about transformers.
When my dad passed away, I stepped in as the CEO. I knew the industry and had experience selling the product. I knew that we had a great foundation and quality product with tremendous opportunity. But at that time, we needed a structural rebuild as far as organization and production were concerned, and that is when I brought in J.P. Davis as President. J.P. had been in the transformer industry for over 30 years and worked for a lot of larger companies such as ABB, GE, CG (now WEG), Honeywell and Alstom. He came, looked at our products and operations, got very excited and said: “Don, there is nobody in the industry that is doing what you are doing and this is an ocean of opportunity.” It meant a lot to me to hear someone from within the industry saying that VanTran has great quality, great customer service, great engineering support and great on time delivery. So, we put together a business plan, to grow the business strategically and to ramp up our branding and marketing efforts.
The atmosphere at VanTran is one of a can-do attitude. Our employees exude a sense of confidence no matter how challenging the task. Our engineering team is trained to design a transformer from top to bottom. When you build so many custom products, anything you change can impact a lot of other things. It is important to know how things on the electrical design are going to impact the mechanical and vice versa; and understanding how it impacts the ability to manufacture the transformer once it goes into production. It’s a great philosophy and gives our engineers a broader perspective from start to finish on the whole project, not just one small piece in the process. We have hired engineers from other manufacturers who are excited for the opportunity to learn and experience more than what they were allowed previously.