Christopher Van Nuys of tech firms LEMO USA, Northwire wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: As operations manager, I oversee the strategy, execution, and alignment of business processes associated with manufacturing engineering, production, purchasing, planning, shipping, receiving, warehousing, and facilities.
I have the privilege of working with an incredibly talented team of people to bring LEMOs world renowned products and services to the U.S. Market. As general counsel, a role which spans two corporations--LEMO USA in Rohnert Park, and Northwire, in Wisconsin, I oversee the legal context of each organization, making recommendations to senior management and the board of directors to mitigate risks, manage liabilities, and advise on matters relating to corporate governance and compliance.
In addition, I work closely with senior management to recommend, draft, and negotiate contracts, many with some of the largest corporations in the world, spanning industries as diverse as medical devices, oil and gas, entertainment, military, and test and measurement.
In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
Relentless dedication to mastering my professions and never content to stop learning.
Years with company: 13
Length of time in current position: Operations manager (5 years); general counsel (< 1 year)
Number of companywide employees:120
Number who report to you:65
Greatest professional accomplishment: Passing the California State Bar Exam while working full-time. We were in the midst of negotiating a number of large commercial contracts with major customers, and I was supporting other managerial and operational activities which made it difficult to be away from the office.
I took just one week off of work to prepare for the bar exam, which later turned out to be in vein, since not one of the subjects I studied that week was tested. I passed on the first attempt nonetheless, which I chalk up to the incredible instruction I received during my four years at Empire Law School.
Greatest professional challenge: Ensuring business continuity during the 2017 wildfires. We serve customers all over the United States (and in some cases, beyond), and our products support devices in markets like medical, military, aerospace, test and measurement--too many to name, but generally mission-critical environments. Ensuring continuity without putting additional strain on an already impacted community was, in a word, challenging.
Best advice received: Take a deep breath
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Becoming general counsel for a company that I care so deeply about, and seeing the company invest their patience in that process. For the last four years, I was working full-time as the operations manager for LEMO USA and attending law school in the evenings.
Studying was reserved for the dead of night, early mornings, and all-consuming weekends. Add to that the raising of a young child, and a second child born midway through law school and, well, with ample opportunities for failure, it was a recipe for one of the greatest challenges of my life.
With the support of an incredible family, an understanding employer, and an unparalleled faculty, I persevered to eventually graduate as the 2019 class valedictorian, receiving nine California Witkin awards in the process and recognition by the California State Legislature.
I had the distinct privilege of giving the valedictory address in front of my friends, family, and colleagues. Shortly thereafter, I passed the bar to embark on the next adventure of my career.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
Regardless of the economy, LEMO, as a privately-held, family-owned corporation, has always had an employee-first focus. Thanks to a successful strategy and a lot of hard work, we're growing (and often hiring).
Moreover, we reinvest in the local community. For example, the company supports a variety of local charities on its own and on behalf of its employees. In addition, we match the charitable contributions of our employees, ensuring that the charities employees are most passionate about receive additional support.
Furthermore, like many companies during the 2017 wildfires, we were forced to shutdown or reduce operations in order for employees to heed evacuation warnings, care for their loved ones and the community, cope, and plan for next steps. LEMO provided the time employees needed for this process so that employees could focus on what mattered most: family, rebuilding, community, and charity.
Next professional goal: Continue building a world-class operational team at LEMO to execute consistently on the mission, vision, and strategy of the organization, and successfully lead LEMO and Northwire through increasingly complex legal landscapes.