Walt DeBiasi, AKS Cutting Systems regional sales manager for the southeast and north central regions, has been with the company for more than 23 years. A valued employee that is the epitome of dedication, DeBiasi saw a long-term future at AKS from the beginning.
DeBiasi is no stranger to hard work. After his father passed away when DeBiasi was a senior in high school, he attended community college but ultimately felt it wasn’t a good fit for him. He instead decided to work his way up through an industry, starting in shipping and receiving at a third-tier automotive lighting company. DeBiasi moved into expediting, then was promoted to inside sales, eventually managing several large accounts, including General Motors, Ford, Valeo and Sylvania.
“That’s how my career has always been,” DeBiasi said. “I always wanted to strive to be better, to be the best. As I progressed, I always thought, “What’s my next level? What can I do better? How can I grow?”
After working for 11 years at the lighting company, DeBiasi spent a year as an outside sales rep for a materials handling company prior to joining AKS in inside sales. Over the years, he moved up from his original position to his current role, managing sales in 13 states and receiving a top sales award in 2018.
AKS: A Family Business
DeBiasi’s favorite parts of the job include the independence to work with his group of sales reps, taking on and closing projects throughout the regions, as well as the close-knit, family feel that is part of the AKS culture.
“We’re a family-owned company; they treat me as one of their own,” DeBiasi said. That sentiment is shared with other team members, and it shows through the very low turnover the company experiences. “The longevity of the employees is remarkable.”
DeBiasi recalls fondly some particularly memorable events and projects with which he’s been involved during his career at AKS. Each year, there was a company picnic where employees and their families would spend time together. One of the best parts about that tradition, DeBiasi said, was watching all the employees’ kids grow up together. Now, some of those “kids” work at AKS themselves.
As a long-term employee, DeBiasi has had the opportunity to work on projects that challenged and inspired him at AKS. He was responsible for selling the first tube cutting system in the company’s history to a Kentucky company, back when AKS was designing its robo-kut and tube cutting products. He also was involved in meeting the needs of a Texas company that manufactured tanks for Tyson Foods, utilizing plate cutting, cylindrical head cutting and tube cutting. The year-long project was so successful, the company is an AKS client to this day.
Back when AKS became Hypertherm’s North American manufacturer for its fiber laser system, DeBiasi worked closely with Hypertherm to develop a system to meet the needs of another Texas company.
“There was no machine quite yet drawn up for it then,” he says. “They shook our hands and gave us an order. We proceeded to manufacture a machine that was basically made from a design sketch on paper.”
A Man With a Plan
In his spare time, DeBiasi enjoys woodworking, golf and riding motorcycles. He has taken up a rather serious interest in woodworking, thanks to his next door neighbor at the lake house they have east of Cleveland.
“The gentleman next door had a woodshop and the last couple years, he really taught me and educated me on many individual projects that we’ve worked hard on,” DeBiasi said. “It’s wine country up here, and we’ve even created wine tables, wine carriers, and we did a couple of shows this past summer and were very successful.”
The woodworking has even kicked up a notch as he, his neighbor, and both their wives are adding an addition onto DeBiasi’s house themselves. The 26.5’x16’ room is being completed 100% on their own.
As for AKS, DeBiasi’s plan is to stay there until retirement. After many years on the job, his advice to others entering the manufacturing industry is to learn your product — not just the sales specs, but the ins and outs, as well as the technical aspects.
“The further you get into this industry, the more and more these engineers really want to know,” he said. “If you have confidence in your product, you can have confidence that they’re going to buy from you. If you don’t know your product, they’re going to find somebody else who knows what they’re doing.”
He sees a strong future for AKS with the up-and-coming employees, and he hopes to help set them on the right track.
“I want to be able to share my knowledge with the younger sales force that’s going to be coming through and taking over our territories in the future,” he said. “My intentions are to retire as an AKS employee.”