Life Lessons


1974 LETU welding engineering alumnus and engineering entrepreneur Warren Hankammer was recently on campus to talk to graduate engineering students about lessons he has learned during his years in the industrial gas and welding supply business.

Hankammer said when he first came to LETU, he wanted to design airplanes, but when he learned about allotropic transformations, the property that makes carbon steel heat treatable, “I thought that was the greatest thing God created since salvation!” he said.

He need money more than he needed graduate school when he got his undergraduate degree, so he went to work at for, Air Reduction Company, Airco, a company that gets oxygen, nitrogen and argon out of the atmosphere and sells it.

“Ask yourselves, what is your passion?” he asked.  “Not just what offers have you had, but what are you passionate about?”

Hankammer said he discovered that he liked figuring things out, solving problems, and when he quit thinking about getting a sale and instead focused on solving a problem for a customer, his whole attitude about sales changed.  

“I’m gonna help you solve a problem, educate you to make a good decision,” he said.  “I don’t want a sale, I want a customer!”  Having a broad base of education, knowing the metallurgy, the welding processes, gas delivery solutions and being able to recommend the right equipment for a job, and not just the most expensive equipment, helped him build a solid reputation for credibility with his customers and others in the business. 

For a few years he worked for the company solving problems for his customers, but when he looked around one day and realized all of his mentors who had spent 30 years with the company had been laid off, he left.  

He worked for a few other companies as a sales representative and sales manager before he and two partners started their own welding supply business which they ran for nearly four years, taking it from $0 to $4 million in revenues before selling it to Red Ball Oxygen for a handsome profit. He continued to work for Red Ball for over five years as a corporate application engineer.  

He told the students that he and his business partners were each prepared to go a year without a paycheck when they started their business.  He emphasized the importance in communicating well and understanding that “cash flow is king.”  

His business career had given him a good background in automation, and he was proud to be one of the first AWS certified engineers in arc welding with robotics.  

When he left Red Ball, he became president of a family-owned company that asked him to add modern manufacturing processes to their already strong manufacturing company and to help the family transition for the future leadership by training the third generation to take over for the second generation.  

Today he owns his own consulting firm, W.H. Enterprises, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where he shares his expertise in the metals industry, negotiation, business development and operations management.