Peter Hall, BESc’83, MBA’86, knew from a young age he’d end up working as an engineer. A second-generation owner of Autotube Ltd., a family business located near Strathroy, Ont., the now 56-year-old recalls being encouraged by his father, Ron, to follow in the elder’s engineering footsteps.
Thirty years have now passed since Peter joined Autotube, and a new generation of Hall engineers is now being cultivated. Peter wasn’t as explicit in his desire for his kids to follow in their father’s footsteps, but he certainly didn’t shy away from touting the benefits of an Engineering degree.
“It’s such a broad and powerful degree to have,” Hall said. “Almost every engineering discipline teaches you things like logical thinking and problem solving. Once you get in there, you can find something that really aligns with your skills and interests. The kids were always good at the maths and sciences in high school, and I said I thought engineering was a pretty good base degree to get.”
When it came time to choose a university program, the Hall children agreed – all four of them.
The eldest, 23-year-old Mark Hall, BESc’16, HBA’16, has completed his dual Software Engineering and Ivey Business School degrees; Andrea, 21, is in her final year of Chemical Engineering and the Ivey program; Bridget, 20, is in her third year of Mechatronic Systems Engineering and the Ivey program; and the youngest, 19-year-old Neve, entered her first year in Engineering and the Ivey program last fall.
In other words, Engineering runs deep in the Hall family.
Besides conveying to his kids the valuable skills gained from an engineering education, Peter also noted the depth of opportunities offered by the Faculty of Engineering at Western – including many dual degrees that send graduates into the workforce with impressive academic credentials.
“There are so many different options now – more than when I was there,” Hall said. “The business aspect was something I missed in my program. That’s why I went back and did an MBA. It’s such a bonus that Western has a five-year dual degree now, and you can get it all done at once.”
Peter joined Autotube in 1986. The company, a Tier 1 manufacturer of tubing parts and fluid level indicators (oil dipsticks) for the automotive market, was founded as a sole proprietorship in 1975 by Peter’s father, Ron, an aeronautical engineer by training. The company has two manufacturing facilities and employs about 200 people. With its main customers being GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and VW, the company ships worldwide. The Hall kids have each spent time during the summers at Autotube, but they won’t be joining the company right out of school.
“That’s our rule,” Peter said. “The hope is they’ll all work somewhere else for a while. Then, by all means, if they want to come into the business after a few years working elsewhere, they’re more than welcome.”
It’s a route that Peter didn’t take, and the thinking is that the kids will get more objective feedback on their performance working for a company outside the family business.
“It will also help them develop a little bit faster and better,” Peter said. “And, I guess selfishly, they’ll bring better ideas back to the family business. You’ll get an injection of new ideas and new talent and new energy from the experience they’ll gain working at other companies. That’s quite powerful for a business.”
Following a projected dip in the auto industry in roughly five years, Peter says he expects the company to enjoy solid growth and undergo further expansion. Whether the Hall kids will be involved in that expansion remains to be seen, but they could very well carry on the family business as third-generation proprietors.
“My main goal is that they find something they’re passionate about and that they enjoy,” Hall said. “If that’s in the company, that’s great. And if that’s outside the company, I’m fine with that too. But, certainly, I’d be very proud to have them be part of the business.”
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