Mark Baril

Mark Baril Headshot

Taking Action with Answers

Baril Receives PEAK Award

Mark Baril has spent the past three years expertly fielding questions. As head of the IADD’s TechTeam™ — a confidential online help desk forum and networking resource — he has not only facilitated answers to Tech-Team’s more than 250 submitted questions to date, but has also successfully responded to opportunities to expand TechTeam’s integral role in IADD’s continued growth.

Baril’s reputation as the IADD’s “go-to guy for answers” stems from his keen eye for good ideas; a tireless commitment to implementing those ideas; and a unifying hand to rally the necessary help. Under Baril’s leadership, TechTeam’s inquiry volume has tripled in the past year, and the IADD has gained a powerful mechanism for attracting new members and forging beneficial new alliances with other associations.

For his lead role in successfully taking TechTeam from concept to reality, and strongly positioning it as a premier technical resource for the industry, Baril, who is president of Cut Smart Manufacturing, is honored with the 2008 IADD PEAK Award, which is given to the person who has made the most positive impact on the diecutting/diemaking industry in recent times by demonstrating Passion, Excellence, Achievement and Knowledge (PEAK).

“Passion, Excellence, Achievement and Knowledge—is that not the definition of TechTeam and Mark’s role within it?” says Brett Johnson, CEO of Arrow Cutters and Baril’s nominator for the award. “In addition...Mark has seen and brought into effect the mechanism by which this Passion, Excellence, Achievement and Knowledge can be shared with the industry as a whole—through TechTeam.”

From help desk to global knowledge base
According to Baril, the idea for TechTeam first emerged at a series of IADD International Task Force meetings, during which a goal was set to build an international library of easily accessible technical information. Discussions around the logistics of feeding that library led to the germination of the TechTeam concept.

After socializing the idea with business contacts and borrowing start-up paperwork from a friend at another association, Baril established TechTeam as a web-based help desk comprised of 14 industry veterans with experience in all aspects of diecutting and diemaking. He emphasized the “one-to-many” advantages of the Team: confidential responses to individual questions, as well as IADD membership-wide access to articles based on the answers the Team provided.

At the outset, Baril recalls, the fledgling group was inundated with questions, but lost momentum in its second year of operation. Question volume rebounded in the third year, as the Team more proactively promoted its capabilities and value. All the while, Baril has continued to be the master technician behind TechTeam’s progression to global knowledge base—optimizing the Team’s structure and member roles; instituting regular conference call updates; and lobbying for IADD staff support.

“Mark realized the timing was right to put things into another gear,” says Joe Adkison, current president of IADD and president of Adko, Inc. He recalls the “great added passion” and “just do it” attitude Mark leveraged to convince the IADD Board of Directors to bring on additional association staff to perform the logistics required to take TechTeam to the next level.

Mike Vanderspool, executive administrative coordinator at IADD, notes, “A lot of things that have happened [with TechTeam] have been Mark’s ideas,” including live demonstrations of the TechTeam website at industry trade shows—a marketing tactic that has already resulted in one organization’s expressed interest in hiring the group as an expert resource.

Assembling one unified voice
For Baril, TechTeam’s most notable achievement remains the vast collective knowledge reservoir its experts bring to the table. “It is a total thrill to realize that we have the answer to any question,” he says. He emphasizes the far-reaching value of such specialized in-house expertise, describing TechTeam as an “incredibly tangible benefit of joining IADD” because it continually draws more technical information into the association and provides members with 24/7 technical support at a minimal cost.

Adkison seconds the significant value of TechTeam’s insights. He often shares TechTeam articles with his customers to help them save money and find permanent solutions to industry challenges. “We’ve gotten IADD members this way,” he says. “It basically repays them many times the cost of joining.”

Packaging multiple servings of raw technical expertise into a cohesive, actionable response to each inquiry is no simple feat, but Baril meets the challenge by “understanding conflicting opinions, drawing the best from each member and then producing an accord,” says Johnson, who is a TechTeam member. Johnson adds Baril has a particular knack for “consistently unifying dissenting responses to a submitted question into a workable, systematic solution that can be understood and implemented.”

Baril leverages a distinctly broad view of the diecutting/diemaking industry to deftly sort through the sometimes opposing layers of expert input. Says Adkison, “All of us know a lot about something. Mark knows a little bit about everything.”

TechTeam’s next season
Baril recently opted to round out his personal knowledge base even further by embarking on a full-time conflict resolution studies program—an endeavor that has ultimately resulted in his transition out of TechTeam’s leadership role, though he will still remain an active member.

In light of this pending change, Baril’s first priority was to set up a smooth leadership succession that would ensure the group’s continuing forward progress. He spearheaded the selection of Jeremy Guest, general manager of Diansuply, as his replacement. “He recognized TechTeam members are technical and want to focus on that versus leadership and management of the group,” adds Vanderspool.

After thoroughly gauging team members’ feedback on his selection to ascertain their acceptance and comfort level, Baril also set up an in-depth series of training sessions for Guest, providing suggestions on specific subject matter. His detailed approach to the transition further exemplifies what Johnson describes as Baril’s signature leadership strength: “having control of the rudder—understanding the best route and then finding the right people to get you there.”

Baril emphasizes that TechTeam could not have traveled such a progressive path without the support of its expert members, as well as the behind-the-scenes talents of Ron Crouse, Cindy Crouse and Mike Vanderspool. “Every team needs a driver, but without the dedicated people we have supporting this team as a whole, that driver would have nothing to’s why I am so excited to remain as a member of the team and experience firsthand where our new team leader Jeremy is going to take us.”

And even as Baril prepares to assume a smaller-scale role on TechTeam, he’s got future goals for the group at the ready. He notes the need for additional Team members with niche expertise, and he’d like to explore possible alliances with other associations to broaden the Team’s knowledge base and develop an even broader global capability to acquire knowledge and answer questions.

In other words, TechTeam, IADD, and the industry as a whole will continue to benefit from Baril’s ability to chart a path to the right answers on multiple levels.