Creating a Customer-Focused Innovative Culture

By Colleen Pritchett

Hexcel has a long and successful history of innovation in advanced composites manufacturing, delivering next-generation materials to our customers. It’s a history built not from building what we think the customer needs, but rather partnering with our customers to deliver what we know they want. We gain that knowledge by asking questions, collaborating constantly, and sharing honest feedback. Then we translate that knowledge into a process, a product, or a service that creates value – helping us both to grow and win. It’s what we call customer intimacy, and it is bred from a customer-focused culture committed to leading innovation.

Hexcel is one of those rare companies that knows how to build and nurture intimate customer relationships . . . the kind where you work so closely together that you’re able to rapidly test and scale innovative products and services that otherwise would not be possible. When you become adept at knowing how to gain a deep understanding of your customers’ needs, you’ll serve them better than anyone else.

At Hexcel, the key behaviors I value and look for in building our team to drive innovation are:

  • Customer Focus – asking and truly listening to understand what our customers need.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit – being curious to try new things and innovate, the ability to connect the dots between what our customers need and leveraging our resources to make things happen quickly.
  • Speed and Agility – working with a sense of urgency to deliver.
  • Operational Excellence – delivering on our promise to customers with a focus on continuous improvement and right-first-time quality.

At Hexcel, we focus on delivering excellence in all that we do. It’s a reflection of our Values – Innovation, Accountability, Responsibility, One Hexcel – which are core to who we are.  So, we expect our managers to lead by example in demonstrating these values to customers. For example, rather than talking about our capabilities, we invite our customers to hold us accountable for continued innovation by asking them to be part of our One Hexcel team. We invite them into our sites whenever possible to see our operations firsthand. At other times, we host Customer Tech Days where we not only showcase our latest products and technologies but also spend quality time learning more about customer needs. Their technical experts talk directly with our technical experts to learn and share information.  These events are rich in meaningful discussion that leads to many growth opportunities for the future. It connects our teams on a different, higher level.  It is customer intimacy in action. 

We have also implemented Customer Growth Teams comprised of cross-functional team members working as one Hexcel team hand-in-hand with our customers to understand their needs so that we can communicate those needs to our broader organization to deliver on our customer promise.    

These kinds of relationships are a key differentiator for Hexcel, and they take time. Without a doubt, it is a challenge to balance listening and relationship building when you also have a need for speed to be first to market. At Hexcel, we believe we can stay nimble, agile, and forward-focused on emerging markets, all the while remembering that when you put the customer first, it’s always a win-win.


About the author
Colleen S. Pritchett is President – Americas & Fibers at Hexcel. She joined Hexcel in November 2018 from E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company where she served as Vice President of the Electronics & Imaging Advanced Printing business. For more than 22 years, Colleen has served in a variety of leadership roles at DuPont, including Vice President of the Electronics & Communications Microcircuit Materials business in Taiwan; Asia Pacific Director for the Performance Polymers business in Shanghai; Global Business Director; Strategic Planning Manager; Americas Business Manager; North America Sales and Distribution Manager; and National Accounts Team Sales Manager. Colleen has a degree in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. In addition, she received training at the Harvard Business School Leadership Program and Women in Governance Program at UCLA.