Destiny’s Calling: Difference Maker Katie Wagner Finds Her Heart, Purpose at Applied Innovation

Katie Wagner

Katie Wagner’s professional career path had been set even before she obtained her degree from Western Michigan University. She was going to be a teacher. It was 2005, and it seems a lot of people had their hearts set on being educators, because the job market was decidedly thin. Too thin—in fact, the best prospects for Wagner were positions that would’ve required her to move to Florida or Illinois, and she didn’t relish that idea.

While waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, Wagner took a summer job at the company then known as Applied Imaging (now Applied Innovation) of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was the same company where her mother, Janet Langerak, was the vice president of operations. When the fall rolled around, Wagner continued to work with Applied while also teaching on a substitute basis. It was during this time that her professional aspirations began to shift.

 “My heart for business and Applied grew during that summer,” said Wagner, a 2023 ENX Magazine Difference Maker. “It allowed me to view the business side of the world and be surrounded by a fun environment with great people. [When] a full-time supply position opened at Applied in March of 2006, I knew that was where I belonged.”

It might not have been a case of mother knows best, but Wagner was inspired by the drive and ambition Langerak displayed as the dealership continued to grow. During her own career, Wagner has worked in multiple departments at Applied, which has helped to deepen her knowledge base while being able to form relationships. That has been key to Wagner’s growth, and it is perhaps only fitting that she, too, is now at the helm of operations as its senior director and manages more than 200 people.

Team-based success also courses through the bloodlines, and that was never more evident than the day when Applied reached the magical $100 million plateau in 2019. Top executive John Lowery had set a timeline for eclipsing the mark years earlier and was right on the money, so to speak, with his prediction.

“That was such an unbelievably exciting day for everyone here at Applied,” Wagner recalled. “John took the entire company along with their significant other to Traverse City for the weekend.  It was an amazing time filled with fun, laughter and team building.”

Magic Number

Hitting the number continues to be a focal point for Wagner, but subsequent years saw the pandemic and supply chain woes add a degree of stress and exhaustion across the dealer’s many departments. Especially in 2022, when Wagner wondered if making the revenue number was realistic. But just when all hope seemed lost, the fourth quarter came to Applied’s rescue.

“The last quarter of the fiscal year, with the help of receiving equipment from some of our vendors, I felt like our energy levels increased and we came alive,” Wagner remarked. “There were many teams throughout the organization working together to achieve our revenue numbers. It was a combined effort, and super exciting to see the results. This is one way Applied Innovation continues to be successful, having true team players who work together to HTN.”

While accomplishing financial goals is vital to Wagner and her team, she hopes to fine-tune and improve Applied Innovation’s sales order process. Working collaboratively as a team to improve sales order efficiency in the wake of continued growth is a nice complement to burgeoning sales.

Moving forward, Wagner seeks to raise her game by continuing to focus on the future of Applied Innovation and the operations team. “When getting into the day-to-day, the time tends to slip away,” she added.

On the personal front, Wagner and her husband have been married for 15 years and have two daughters. They’re enjoying a trip to Disney World this month. The Wagners also love camping and spending time at Lake Michigan. When she’s not spending time with family and friends, Wagner enjoys participating in Applied Imaging’s golf league, primarily to bask in the great outdoors and socialize with team members.

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.