February 20, 2017
2017 Business Leaders: Innovator of the Year

Hanlon creates innovative business by focusing on employees

Contributed
BlueHive's signature product is its creative displays custom made for company trade shows, but Hanlon has pushed his firm to explore complementary opportunities befitting employees' skills.

Innovator of the Year

Paul Hanlon

President, BlueHive Inc.

Location: Worcester

Employees: 180

Busy company: BlueHive has 30,000 hours of backlogged work for 2017.

In 2004, seven years after Paul Hanlon sold his first company Folio Exhibits, his former employees asked him to start a new company.

So he did.

Today, he runs Worcester trade show display maker BlueHive, with 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space near the city's airport. This previous year BlueHive added a new digital marketing department, BlueHive Media, bringing in a full-time video designer. Hanlon credits his company's success to his employees, who he said help him make business decisions.

"My mantra is my people come first, my venders second and my client third," he said. "If I have the best people and best venders, then my clients are going to have the best service."

It was concern over his employee's jobs that inspired the one-stop model that makes BlueHive unique, he said. As a reaction to the 2009 financial recession, Hanlon added high-end millwork to the list of BlueHive's services, allowing the company to produce the displays it was designing. It took two to five years to create the right team of employees, said Hanlon.

"When people talk about being an innovator, it is out of the desire not to fail. It is amazing how creative you can be to keep standing, and I just never laid down," said Hanlon.

Maintaining the proper balance

Hanlon said he is still more motivated by the growth of his employees than by any project. Just last year, BlueHive turned down a $3-million deal because the timeline was not conducive to its employees' success.

His dedication to his employees and commitment to seeing projects through were instrumental to his success, said Don Alli, vice president of Alli & Bradson Enterprises, Inc., a commercial laundry and dishwashing machine chemicals provider in Clearwater, Fla.

"Paul has a knack for putting things together and keeping people going," said Alli. "What he created is just unbelieveable, taking the business from zero in very little time in an economy that was very rough to work in."

BlueHive plans to make investments in digital marketing in this year, with the goal of one day having a studio.

"Dubbed, 'Digital storytellers,' this innovative group of creative minds offers solutions in social media, video, website and graphic design and rebranding," said Amadeus Finlay, BlueHive's director of media.

Meet the other 2017 Business Leaders of the Year

WBJ Hall of Fame

Corporate Citizen of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year

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