Celebrating Excellence: Robert Philips – A Visionary Leader in the Wood Industry

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and talking with Robert Philips in Las Vegas, where he was being honored for his leadership in the industry at Woodworking Network’s 40 under 40 class of 2023 event at AWFS.

At the intersection of youthful brilliance and industry expertise, Robert Philips stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when passion meets professionalism. At the age of 35, Philips has not only redefined leadership in the wood industry but has also earned a well-deserved spot among the 40 Under 40 award winners. With a career spanning three impactful years in the wood industry, he has harnessed his prodigious talents to steer innovation and success at Akhurst Machinery and Cantek.

“My area of expertise is sanding applications and widebelt sanders. The Akhurst service department has done a tremendous job of helping me understand the technical aspects of widebelt sanders and the multitude of sanding applications in the Canadian woodworking industry. I provide knowledge based on customer sanding application needs. Working to design and bring new innovative widebelt sanders to the Canadian woodworking market”, Philips explained modestly.

As a seasoned Product Manager, Philips has not only led the direction of Cantek widebelt sanders and a range of Akhurst products across North America but has also redefined the standards of leadership. A remarkable achiever, he recently emerged as a graduate of the esteemed London School of Economics negotiation program, a testament to his relentless pursuit of knowledge and growth. His current pursuit of a law degree in the evenings, focusing on corporate and contract law, speaks volumes about his commitment to holistic professional development.

Philips’ influence reaches beyond certificates and degrees, touching the heart of the sales team at Akhurst. His leadership has breathed life into a high-performing sales culture, where motivation and inspiration are the driving forces. The environment he has fostered has translated into heightened productivity and remarkable collective success.

In the realm of interpersonal prowess, Philips is a true luminary. He is truly one of the most authentic and friendliest people I’ve met. He has the ability to get along with just about anyone. This extraordinary skill has not only created an unshakeable trust but also forged enduring partnerships that have extended the company’s customer base. Philips understands that business isn’t merely about transactions; it’s about relationships built on trust, understanding, and mutual growth.

“It is a tremendous honour to be acknowledged amongst my peers as an expert in the woodworking field. Understanding clients’ needs and finding solutions for sanding problems, helps to expand my knowledge base and build great relationships with Canadian clients and woodworking businesses. A special acknowledgment to Akhurst for cultivating a great working environment and placing employees in situations to grow and succeed”, said Philips.

However, Robert’s influence isn’t confined to boardrooms and sales. His contributions extend to conferences halls and articles. His unique knack for translating complex concepts into understandable, engaging narratives has established him as a respected voice within the wood industry.

“I would like to continue to expand my expertise by designing new machinery that implements multiple sanding features into one machine. Akhurst/Cantek Sanders continues to diversify and complete larger sanding projects. Personally, I would like to progress in management and continue to grow my leadership capabilities”, Philips said.

Robert Philips embodies the very essence of the 40 Under 40 award, representing the spirit of a new generation of leaders who are not only redefining their industries but also creating a legacy of inspiration. It was a privilege to meet him and other great Canadians at AWFS. With his strategic mind, empathetic heart, and unyielding dedication, Philips paves the way for a future where youth is not a barrier but a catalyst for transformative change. As we celebrate his achievements, we also eagerly anticipate the unparalleled contributions he will undoubtedly make in the years ahead.

Look out for future articles by Robert Philips in future editions of Wood Industry Magazine!


Tyler Holt is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine. He has a master’s degree in literature and publication, and years of experience in the publishing and digital media industry. His main area of study is the effect of digital technologies on industrial and networked production.

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