Ed Abrao-Netto – HSM Solutions
When a mattress is thrown away, it might sit in a landfill for decades, or even centuries, before decomposing.
Considering the foam, glue, wood and metal coils, plus the size of mattresses, they don’t break down easily. Recycling them is a challenge too, because they need to be torn apart—a tiring, time consuming and often expensive process—and with Americans throwing away millions of mattresses every year, they pile up quickly.
HSM Solutions is looking to address that challenge as it moves toward a more sustainable, innovative future, says Ed Abrao-Netto, the chief legal officer, corporate secretary and vice president of corporate development. He’s excited to be at HSM as it “transforms from a traditional manufacturer to a more market-oriented innovative solutions provider.”
Over the past 2 1/2 years, he’s helped guide the company and reestablish its culture.
“HSM is at a very transformative point in its history,” Abrao-Netto says. “Being in-house counsel, I enjoy the variety of the work, given our diversified manufacturing base, while having the ability to impact the overall mission of the company. I get to live with the business and help drive all its strategic projects.”
HSM Solutions is a private holding company based in North Carolina, that owns and operates manufacturing businesses that serve industries such as health care, transportation, machine automation, aviation, textiles and home furnishings.
As part of the transformation, Abrao-Netto says HSM will make more innovative and proprietary products. It will embrace lean manufacturing principles, and sustainability will be a focus, as evidenced by developing more recyclable mattresses. Automation will play a role, too, enabled by HSM’s investment in Atlanta Attachment Company, a manufacturing automation and robotics business.
Abrao-Netto says HSM doesn’t presently intend to be an intellectual property company, but that it wants to be IP-driven in its product strategy and growth model.
“It’s a high-wire act because every decision at this juncture has a material effect on the direction of our company,” he says.
Some of HSM’s future growth is expected to come through mergers and acquisitions, which is one of Abrao-Netto’s specialties. He’s continually examining which subsidiaries, and which products made by each one, are doing well and which aren’t. He helps decide where the company wants to invest more resources, as well as when and what it wants to sell and remove from its portfolio.
Abrao-Netto says he also expects HSM to grow organically as it focuses on more “value-added products,” like high temperature pipe insulation and more sustainable mattresses. This became especially apparent in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers quarantined and looked for ways to improve or upgrade their homes.
Being a manufacturing company, Abrao-Netto says HSM was “deeply impacted” by the pandemic.
Most of HSM’s businesses constitute or support critical infrastructure, so employees who work on shop floors didn’t have the option to work remotely and had to adhere to strict safety protocols. It was important to keep everyone healthy and cooperative because, unlike many companies, the pandemic didn’t slow business at HSM.
“Nesting syndrome led to a spike in demand for our products,” Abrao-Netto says. “People wanted new furniture and mattresses, so, in many ways, it accelerated our transformation.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, HSM pivoted some of its facilities to make medical masks and gowns, a first for the company. HSM had the capacity, sewing expertise and materials and, Abrao-Netto says, many employees found it rewarding to support front-line workers. He also had to become familiar with the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations for manufacturing and labeling personal protective equipment and ensure the company was compliant.
“It was exciting, but challenging,” he says. “We were doing it mainly to support front-line workers, and our country in its time of need, and as a corporate citizen, it felt good.”
The collaboration, resiliency and adaptability of HSM employees over the past year has been illustrative of company culture, Abrao-Netto says.
While helping the company transform and grow, he’s been advocating core values of creative thinking, responsible risk-taking and respect. Through collaboration with his executive and business leadership teams, he ensures the culture is maintained throughout the organization.
“I believe culture and teamwork are huge factors in whether a company is successful,” he says. “Living culture and values, and truly adhering to them, particularly in challenging and stressful situations, is paramount.”
While Abrao-Netto started his career as a corporate and finance lawyer with global law firms, he’s held in-house positions for over a decade. Being so deeply enmeshed in a company’s business strategy is fulfilling for him because he’s “there for all the highs and lows.”
As in-house counsel, he considers part of his role to be that of “culture champion.”
“We’re always advising our clients at their most professionally exciting and vulnerable moments, so our team is uniquely positioned to reinforce a culture of integrity, excellence, teamwork and accountability,” Abrao-Netto says. “That’s something my team and I pride ourselves on.”
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