Bunting’s Marketing Director Michael Wilks Retires After 23-Year Career

At the end of March 2024, Bunting’s Marketing Director Michael Wilks retires and concludes his memorable career at Bunting. During 23 years with the company, the Marketing Director has been a core member of the management team overseeing a prestigious period of sales growth and company acquisition.

Michael took his first steps into the workplace at just 15 years old, working in construction. However, Michael knew that further education was important and, after initially intending to build a career in advertising photography, advice from a college advisor led to Michael taking a business degree in marketing. This move would forge a lifelong career in marketing.

While studying marketing at Wichita State University, Michael worked part-time at an advertising agency for experience. After graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors, this important work experience led to Michael taking on the role of an advertising account executive, planning promotional strategies for companies involved in banking, restaurant chains, and manufacturing.

A further six years of night classes led to Michael obtaining a master’s degree in business administration, with a major in marketing and a minor in psychology and accounting. The new qualifications led to a move away from advertising communication and into target marketing campaigns involving local and state governments, insurance, and international retail companies. The high-profile aspect of his role included working closely with Chambers of Commerce, state government, U.S. Congress, and ambassadors of foreign countries.

Michael’s experience and construction background then led to a career move to a national cabinetry manufacturer as the Director of Research and Development. This included managing the company’s extensive trade shows, which involved the building and disassembly of 30 by 60-foot two-story exhibits.

Michael’s career path eventually led him to a local Wichita manufacturing company as the Sales and Marketing Director until he met Bob Bunting, the CEO and President of Bunting Magnetics Co. This proved to be Michael’s career defining moment.

Assuming the role of Bunting’s Marketing Manager, Michael oversaw all aspects of marketing, including the management of over 15 small and midsized trade shows each year. With a focus on company growth and following implementation of a personality assessment tool to get the right people in the right positions, Michael was identified as “The Big Picture Guy” and was promoted to Director of Sales and Marketing. This involved setting longer term strategies that would take several years to execute.

Soon after, following unexpected changes within the team, Michael assumed the additional roles of Sales Manager and Territory Manager. Despite the significant workload, Michael successfully retained those roles for the next five years.

This was a period of evolution for Bunting Magnetics Co., with a focus on sales growth and profit maximization. One initiative tasked Michael with reducing marketing costs by 30%, which he achieved in part by moving all advertising services in-house rather than through an agency. A task only possible due to Michael’s previous agency experience. Without compromising on brand-building and lead generation, marketing costs were cut by 40% in the year.

In 2007, Bob Bunting identified an opportunity producing flexible dies for narrow web and folding cartons, and to gain market share in the manufacture of magnetic cylinders. The following year, Michael left his position as Director of Sales and Marketing to take on the new challenge as General Manager of the Flexible Die Manufacturing Facility. He was tasked with overseeing construction of the new manufacturing unit and startup in just eight months.

After eight months, Bunting produced the first flexible dies and launched the product at the 2008 Label & Narrow Web trade show in Chicago. This was an incredible achievement made more difficult by the country’s banking crisis at the time.

The business evolved into largely magnetic printing cylinders under Michael’s management. Breaking into the sector was challenging due to entrenched competition, but Michael identified that reducing the lead time was a key selling point. Michael and his team worked hard towards reducing lead times by as much as 50% reduction. By 2015, the Bunting machine shop was manufacturing magnetic cylinders at capacity, operating two full shifts with mandatory overtime. The magnetic cylinders business remains a core part of the Bunting product portfolio to this date.

Michael returned to the role of Marketing Director of Bunting in mid-2018 and oversaw the rebranding of the business. However, Michael requested that he continue in his role as Printing Product Manager, despite the increased workload. This sense of responsibility and commitment to the cause is reflected throughout Michael’s career. Michael relinquished the Printing Product Manager position in 2023 and retires while in the role of Bunting’s Marketing Director.

Since joining Bunting in 2001, Michael has been a key member of the management team overseeing the company’s evolution. Bunting has made many company acquisitions, including Magnet Applications (UK and U.S.), Master Magnets (UK), e-Magnets (UK), and MagDev (UK), and owns four manufacturing facilities and one distribution center across the U.S. and UK.

Over 23 years Bunting’s product portfolio has evolved from small MagSlide® conveyors to ultra-strong magnetic separators including the Stainless Steel Separation Conveyor (SSSC) and Eddy Current Separators.

During his Bunting career, Michael has made many new friends who were either employees or customers. He specifically regards Bob Bunting as an inspirational figure throughout his time at the company. The two have maintained a very close working relationship, travelling the world together with a focus on growing the business.

“I really don’t know that I’ve ever met a man fairer and more honest to the people who worked for him,” explains Michael. “I have seen him stand up for many people in tough situations, and it doesn’t take long to realize that as long as people do the job they were hired to do, he would offer his support to them no matter what the circumstances.”

Retirement does not mean stopping for Michael and he has plans to travel, both in the U.S. and overseas, as well as working on projects at home using the carpentry skills developed when he first started work as a 15-year-old.

SUBSCRIBE to our Complimentary Publications: