Wood Industry Market Leader: Tom Happ, Closet Works


You could say organization is a key component to Tom Happ’s business success. The president of Closet Works, Happ has helped grow the Chicagoland manufacturer into one of the region’s largest providers of closets and custom organization solutions.

At the 60,000-square-foot factory in Elmhurst, Illinois, the company produces systems for every room of the home as well as businesses, including: closets, wine storage/pantries, 360-degree organizers, media wall units, office storage systems, garage systems, laundry and mudrooms, and Murphy beds. The company’s designers have earned Top Shelf Design Awards and Best of Houzz certification, and Happ has also made his mark as a speaker, sharing his expertise with fellow manufacturers at various events.

He has applied much of his past business experience, derived from 28 years of product and market development in the coin-operated games industry, to the family-owned Closet Works.

“Having a great team behind me is critical to success.  From our designers, engineers, shop, office and installers, I have a great team,” he said.

“We run a very modernized shop that is very clean and organized.  We are in the organization business and therefore we as a company must be organized across all areas.” Happ added. “I like to refer to this as ‘Organized Growth.’”

His business mantra reflects this philosophy. “Within business, I believe you always need to be ‘Leaning Forward’ to create the momentum of growth.  If you are complacent and stand still you will be passed up.”

To ensure the company continues to thrive, Happ’s goals for Closet Works include maintaining a “continuous focus on business and market growth while seeking continuous improvements in our process and business.”

Success also comes from the ability to differentiate yourself from competitors, some of the best advice Happ said he’s received. “To do this you must first understand your competition and determine what you can do better.” Instead of just one point of differentiation, develop many, to ensure all customers find something “meaningful,” he explained.

Outside the workplace environment, community service is also a priority. Along with participation in local fundraisers, Happ and his family volunteer at a local food pantry. In his spare time, Happ also enjoys being with his family, traveling or playing golf.

Quick Glimpse:

  • Education: BA in Business/Marketing from Illinois State University and MBA from Lewis University
  • Number of years at the company: 5
  • Number of years in the industry: 5
  • Words that best describe you: Organized growth
  • Business mantra: I believe you always need to be “Leaning Forward” to create the momentum of growth.  If you are complacent and stand still you will be passed up.
  • Best advice: Differentiate yourself from the competition. Understand your competition & determine what you can do better.
  • Who have you tried to emulate: My father. He always has demonstrated that taking care of employees and customers is a great recipe for success.  He is a constant reminder that integrity, hard work and kindness pays off.

About the Wood Industry Market Leaders: This marks the 11th year Woodworking Network has paid tribute to outstanding men and women that have made an impact, not only at their companies, but within the various wood products industries. Since 2009, more than 70 industry professionals have shared their influencers, insights and strategies.  Read more about the 2019 and past honorees at WoodworkingNetwork.com/Market-Leaders.

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]