FLiP Files – Jon Smalling

Jon Smalling, the southeast regional sales manager for SEPRO Group, found a job in the plastics industry to, in his words, “improve his quality of life”, but unknowingly that job would provide him with a career that would change his life.

After graduating from Kennesaw State University, Jon began his professional career in banking sales. 

After the financial crisis in 2008, Jon knew he needed to unexpectedly change career paths. He found a business development position for a manufacturer that extruded mesh film for produce packaging. The job was a 10-minute drive from his house, and it was in an industry that would provide him new insight and experiences.

During his initial interview for the sales representative position, Jon explained his background in finances. The hiring manager indicated, “I can teach everybody plastics but I can’t teach everybody sales.” Jon started in the business development position and has since spent more than 10 years in the plastics industry. In the last 10 years, he has had the privilege of traveling the world, meeting new friends and providing solutions to his customers. Jon has experienced the plastics industry as a material manufacturer, raw material broker and is now selling automation solutions to injection molders.

Jon now is part of the team at SEPRO Group, a leading independent manufacturer and integrator of injection molding 3, 5, 6-axis robots and downstream equipment. Jon regularly travels to meet customers and tour their production facilities to see what automation solutions are needed. “I am reviewing what injection molders need and providing solutions to help them solve problems.  Every day is a new challenge and it is a privilege to be a part of the team at SEPRO and solve those challenges,” Jon said.

Jon enjoys his job and the opportunities in the plastics industry. He sees himself staying in the industry and continuing to be a part of the next generation of leaders that will innovate the plastics industry. To those new in the industry, Jon advises: “Keep your eyes open and take in as many experiences as you can. In this industry, there are continuing education opportunities everywhere. Learn as much as you can, volunteer, get involved and speak up.”

In addition to his job, Jon is the Continuing Education Committee Chair for Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP). Jon recommends his peers in the plastics industry get involved in FLiP. “FLiP is an entry point into networking outside of your organization,” Jon advises. It is important to connect with young professionals that are part of the same industry. At any time I can call, text, or email with my peers for advice, help or even a good laugh when needed."

Jon enjoys seeing the next generation getting more involved in the industry. According to Jon, the plastics industry is full of innovators. People who want to make a difference in the world should consider the plastics industry for a fulfilling career.  In the plastics industry, “we need to advocate for both recyclability and sustainability and also the importance of single-use plastics. We can’t pick sides- these are not 'either-or' issues. We are an industry of innovators and forward thinkers." 

"We are an industry that provides solutions – we want to keep communities safer and cleaner,” Jon said. “This industry is full of young professionals who want to make a difference. Whether that is an environmental difference, medical difference, or a safety difference the plastics industry provides so many opportunities to make a difference.”

The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals who are active in PLASTICS' Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40. For this FLiP File, we spoke with Jon Smalling, Regional Sales Manager at SEPRO Group about his experience working in the plastics industry.