Why Optimism is on the Rise among Small Business Owners

Marlin Steel President Drew GreenblattRecently, we discussed how the NFIB’s small business optimism index showed an increase in the confidence of small biz owners in the American economy. With increased optimism in the future from the small business sector, investments in the growth of business are on the rise, which further fuels economic growth through spending.

But, why are small business owners so optimistic about the future? This is a question that Marlin Steel owner and president Drew Greenblatt tackled in his recent Inc Columnist post on Inc.com titled “Glass 3/4 Full – 10 Reasons Why Small Business Optimism is Improving.” In the article, different reasons for the recent upsurge in confidence among small business owners are revealed and explained, including:

Increases in Lending from Banks

For many businesses, especially smaller ones, the ability to get a loan from the bank in order to cover major expenses that are a consequence of starting up or expanding business can mean the difference between success and closure.

As an example, let’s say that a small manufacturer manages to secure an enormous, lucrative contract with an overseas buyer to make several tons worth of custom metal forms. Before this order can be completed, raw materials need to be purchased, production lines need to be set up, and workers need to be paid. However, payment for the order is contingent upon completion.

Without a loan, the manufacturer cannot complete the shipment, and they lose the money they may have already spent on trying to get set up for said shipment. With a loan from the bank, the company can have access to the funds needed to complete the shipment, and repay the loan from the proceeds. In this arrangement, the client gets what they wanted, the manufacturer makes money (allowing for continued operation and growth), and the bank collects a profit as well.

Because of situations similar to the one above, lending from banks, including the Ex-Im Bank, continue to be a cornerstone of economic growth and success for small business.

Businesses are Adding New Equipment/Facilities

Since banks are lending more, businesses are having an easier time buying new equipment and expanding their facilities. Business have to buy their equipment and facilities from someone, which means more capital is flowing to the suppliers and manufacturers who support other businesses.

Since these suppliers are earning more money, they can afford to make more expenditures, hire new personnel, etc., all of which further helps to bolster the economy. Recently, Marlin Steel added a brand new, top of the line Medium Frequency Direct Current (MFDC) automated welder that can complete welds in a fraction of the time that a standard welding machine would take.

Businesses that acquire new equipment and technology gain a competitive advantage, meaning that their competitors have to find ways to keep up, spurring growth and innovation in their industry as a whole.

Stabilized Energy Costs

For many companies, especially manufacturers, energy costs are a huge part of the operational budget. Thankfully, plentiful reserves of natural gas in our country are helping to keep the cost of energy down, translating into lower electric bills for many small business owners.

This alleviates some of the financial stress on business owners, leading to a modest increase in optimism among small biz owners.

In addition to that, the natural gas industry is adding new, high-paying jobs to the market, adding more people who can pay taxes, buy homes, and put their money into circulation.

The Bottom Line

Overall, increased lending from banks, more investments in improving business infrastructure, and stable energy costs, among other things, are helping to actually breathe life into the economy, which is helping to brighten the outlook of small business owners.

With some hard work and innovation, we can make a difference and make the American economy stronger.

You can read the full article and all 10 of the factors in the Inc.com post.

Drew Greenblatt to Provide Expert Testimony to the U.S. Senate

Marlin Steel Custom Wire BasketsOn May 13, 2014, Marlin Steel president Drew Greenblatt will appear before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, to prove expert testimony to the Senate on the effects of corporate espionage and trade secret theft on American businesses.

The subject of IP theft and software piracy is one that is of great concern to all business owners in America, not just Drew. When a competitor steals a company’s trade secrets that took decades to develop, that company loses its unique competitive edge. (You can read the full testimony here).

As a member of the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and the co-founder of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation (NAJI), Drew has considerable experience in working to protect businesses both large and small from the damage that can be caused by criminals who steal other companies’ intellectual properties rather than develop their own. It is because of Drew’s experience in fighting corporate espionage and theft that he is being called on to provide expert testimony before the Senate’s subcommittee.

The Importance of Keeping a Trade Secret

Trade secrets are among the most important assets that a company can have. How valuable are they? According to Drew’s research, the trade secrets of publicly traded U.S. companies are worth an estimated $5 trillion. This figure does not take into account the trade secrets of the innumerable private companies in America.

Small businesses are particularly reliant on trade secrets to protect their innovations, mainly because filing for, and then enforcing, a patent can be incredibly difficult and expensive. For Marlin Steel, our own company, our trade secrets are our IP. We use the expertise of our staff to manufacture custom-designed products to meet exacting design and performance needs using proprietary processes. Without these processes, Marlin Steel would not be the company that it is today.

The head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command places the damages to American companies caused by the theft of IP at roughly $250 billion each year. This is largely because we live in a world where information is easier to distribute than ever before. In the decades prior to the internet, the theft of corporate secrets was limited by how much paperwork a thief, usually an employee, could sneak out of the office. Not only that, but the thief actually had to track down a buyer, which meant finding a local competitor who wanted the information on offer.

Internet Vulnerabilities

Nowadays, hundreds of thousands of pages worth of trade secrets can fit into a thumb drive. Worse yet, if the company doesn’t have a protected, closed system, hackers can infiltrate a company’s network and steal everything kept on any one of the company’s networked computers. Also, the transmission of secrets, once stolen, is easier than before. Instead of having to physically move a pile of paperwork from point A to point B, the thief can send the information to practically anyone in the world in an instant with a few simple clicks of the mouse.

One of the most disconcerting possibilities is that viruses brought into a company’s system can cause safety hazards for manufacturers with computer-controlled automated equipment, such as Marlin Steel’s own laser and robots that handle the majority of the physical labor. Not only can such sabotage ruin a production run, errant machinery can cause harm to workers on the production floor, which is something that Marlin Steel is dedicated to avoiding.

Protecting IP, Protecting Employees

Marlin Steel has invested in improved network security to harden our systems against the possibility of intrusion. By doing so, not only does Marlin Steel protect the company’s trade secrets, we protect our employees.

However, there is only so much that any one company can do by themselves. Congress and the Administration also have all-important roles in ensuring that America’s laws and policies, and the enforcement thereof, are able to meet the threats of today’s modern, connected world.

Thankfully, the White House, Congress, and the Justice Department are heeding the warnings of businesses across the country and taking steps to combat the threat of foreign IP theft and corporate espionage. The FBI has stepped up criminal enforcement of trade secret theft, Congress passed the Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enforcement Act, and the White House organized a strategy to mitigate theft.

Yet more still needs to be done.

In his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee, Drew will address some of the additional steps that need to be taken to protect business from corporate espionage and theft. By raising awareness of the problem, American companies can protect their businesses from espionage. This will, in turn, allow our businesses to continue to grow and employ more people.

Join Drew Greenblatt and NAJI to help increase awareness of the problem of corporate espionage today and trade secret theft today. You can do sign up on the NAJI.ORG website to help keep America safer.

Drew Greenblatt Speaks Before the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce

drew greenblatt nc chamber of commerce eventFor Drew Greenblatt, Marlin Steel’s president and owner, the fight to put a stop to the ever-looming threat of IP theft and software piracy is an important cause. Across America, many businesses, both large and small, are relying on their own unique intellectual properties and patented processes to give them the edge they need to stay competitive in what can be a very difficult market.

When foreign companies steal the copyrighted properties of American businesses and start flooding the market with cheap copies, it can cause irreparable damage. Companies whose intellectual property is stolen lose their unique advantage over competitors, one that they may have spent significant amounts of money to develop, only to see some other company make a copy of the product without having to account for dollars spent on R&D.

It is because of the immense harm that IP theft causes to American businesses that Drew Greenblatt has dedicated so much of his time to helping American companies fight against this kind of unethical and underhanded business practice.

Drew recently spoke to the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce regarding these topics, and you can watch the full video here.

Making People Take Notice

As a part of the fight against IP theft, Drew organized the creation of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation (NAJI) to help American manufacturers fight piracy and IP theft whenever and wherever it happens.

As the Chairman of NAJI, Drew frequently addresses lawmakers, businessmen, and politicians, working with them to protect American business and curtail the efforts of thieves. Recently, Drew spoke before the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce to help raise awareness of the situation that faces manufacturers and other businesses in America.

Drew’s presentation to the members of the Chamber of Commerce highlighted the challenges facing companies today. Important takeaways from the presentation included:

  • How IP & innovation are responsible for 40% of economic growth and employment in the U.S.
  • The fact that U.S. Manufacturing companies account for 69% of private sector R&D expenditures and 94% of all patents filed in the U.S.
  • The rate of software piracy among foreign businesses based in Indonesia, China, Russia and India exceeds 50%!

When a competitor can make the same product without having to invest in R&D, they can undercut the rightful IP owner in their own market, drowning honest businesses in a tide of cheap copies. Getting the people who are responsible for creating and enforcing copyright law to see the problem and take action can mean the difference between success and death for American companies who create fresh, original IPs.

Working Together to Prevent Theft

Through events such as the speech before the Chamber of Commerce of North Carolina, NAJI meetings, collaboration with NAM, and the everyday efforts of NAJI members, we can work together to fight piracy and stop IP theft in its tracks, ensuring a fairer market for every company that works hard to bring their creations to their customers all over the globe.

You can join the more than 380 companies that are fighting to protect American businesses from the theft of their intellectual property today. Become a proactive part of the effort to defend your business from the pirates and thieves who are trying to turn a profit from your hard work.

Drew Greenblatt Discusses How to Make More Valuable Employees with The FABRICATOR

Marlin Steel Most Valuable EmployeesIn the recent April 2014 issue of The Fabricator, Marlin Steel’s own Drew Greenblatt discussed with Dan Davis, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, in his own words, how we foster the skills of our employees to strengthen our business. Here is what he said:

While automation has done much to help Marlin Steel not only survive, but thrive in a tough market, it is the ever-growing experience and knowledge of our employees that makes our company a force to be reckoned with. To encourage more knowledge and skills growth among our employees, I have adopted a number of policies designed to make our employees the best that they can possibly be.

Not only does Marlin Steel encourage our employees to gain new skills, we actively reward employees who continue to build their knowledge set. We track our employee’s certifications and skillsets through an organizational “Skills Matrix” that provides a snapshot of who has what skills and we post it where every employee can see it in the lunchroom. Our employees know that we provide wage increases based on the total number of skills that they have earned, which provides a real incentive for them to pursue training in the skills that we need to cover most.

Where other companies are having a hard time finding employees with the skills they need, the members of our team are more versatile than ever before, able to handle a number of tasks. That’s because we invest in making them better.

Marlin Steel Employees

Why We Encourage Broad Skillsets

Naturally, there is a reason why Marlin Steel encourages our employees to have a broader skillset than we used to. Actually, there are several benefits to growing the skillsets of our employees, but there is a specific incident that Drew mentions in his interview with The FABRICATOR that really highlights the need to have people with more than one skillset.

A few years ago, Marlin Steel was beginning to really ramp up our business, taking on more clients and doing a lot more shipping. One day, the employee that was in charge of shipping and logistics had a medical emergency and was unavailable for a few days. Too late, we discovered that she was the only person in our factory who knew the process for creating packing slips, UPS forms, and various other shipping-related activities.

We kept making products, but we couldn’t ship them without the help of this one person, this Most Valuable Person for shipping. Orders piled up, and the backlog that she came back to was stupendous.

This incident helped us come to the realization that we needed to cross-train our employees and broaden their skillsets and knowledge so that the next time someone got ill or went on vacation, production and shipping wouldn’t come to a screeching halt.

Creating the List

After the shipping fiasco, we  created a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel, listing the names of all of our employees and the critical job skills Marlin Steel needed in order to function. We crossed off the skills that each employee had, and then we put the list on the lunchroom board. The results surprised us.

There were a few employees that we had who already possessed a considerable number of skills, while there were others who did not have as extensive a skills list. We tied a points system to the skills list, and everyone began getting into the spirit of competition, because nobody wanted to be left behind.

As employees added new skills, such as how to work, repair or reprogram specific robots in the factory, we rewarded these self-improvement efforts by providing pay raises to them.

The Benefits of Making More Valuable Employees

Not only were our employees becoming more adaptable and robust in their knowledge, we were, as a company, able to identify specific weaknesses in our overall skill base. Knowing where we were lacking allowed us to incentivize the learning of the specific skills we needed to be more successful and ensure that we continued to be productive and competitive as a whole.

Even as our employees are competing with one another to get the most skill points on the board, which we update regularly, the broadening of their skillsets allows our employees to better support one another. Before, if one employee wanted to take a vacation or go on his/her  honeymoon, production might have been hurt because we wouldn’t be able to find someone to cover that person’s responsibilities. Now, everyone knows who will be able to cover for them in case of an emergency, or if they just want to take a well-earned vacation.

Having some skill redundancy also helps when we get a large backlog of work for any one department. When one department gets swamped, for whatever reason, other, less -busy departments can send people in to help get the work done faster.

Treating Employees like Humans, not Resources

Another benefit of Marlin Steel’s rewards system is that we actually don’t have an HR department. Our CFO does HR-related stuff, but we don’t have an HR person.

Why? When our employees meet or beat their goals, they get a cash bonus on top of their regular pay. It’s that simple. Paying people more money to do their work quickly and efficiently is a much more dignified way of improving efficiency than sending someone around the factory floor to tell people that they aren’t working hard enough or fast enough.

Talking down to a person and treating him/her like  a child or worse, just a tool to be used and abused, is not only reprehensible, it’s often counter-productive. By supplying a fair, reachable goal for bonuses on each pay period, our employees can see how to earn more money, and know that it is tied directly to their performance for that week.

Read the Full Article Now!

To learn more about how Marlin Steel creates More Valuable Employees and rewards driven, capable individuals, read the article from The FABRICATOR here or contact us today! Marlin Steel is dedicated to moving the manufacturing industry forward through improved automation and better employee relationships.

Drew Greenblatt Discusses Manufacturing with The New York Times

Drew Greenblatt Marlin Steel Marlin Steel’s president and CEO Drew Greenblatt recently sat down for an interview with John Grossman of The New York Times. In the interview, Drew discusses how he came to be the owner of Marlin Steel, his early successes, challenges, and how a little call from Boeing helped him overcome extinction at the hands of foreign commodity distributors who could sell product for less than his materials costs.

Read the full article, “From Making Bagel Baskets to Thinking Much Bigger” to learn more about Marlin Steel’s incredible journey from being a small commodity bagel basket maker to an advanced company that creates precision-engineered material handling baskets for leading technology companies.

Marlin Steel president on health care on Greta Van Susteren last night

 Greta Van Susteren

Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt was on the Greta Van Susteren show last night to discuss the impact of health care insurance costs on small business after testifying on the topic earlier in the day before a Senate committee on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers. Click here for the video link.

Newest U.S. senator to Marlin Steel president: “You rock”

Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt

Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt

U.S. Senator Cory Booker

U.S. Senator Cory Booker

At a hearing this morning on health care before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at which Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt testified, we appreciated the stream-of-consciousness comments (1:48:23 – 1:53:00) of the newest U.S. senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, who proclaimed Mr. Greenblatt an honorary “Jersey boy.”:

“Mr. Greenblatt, first of all, I appreciate your Jersey connection (as) a guy who vacations in Jersey. You have some Jersey-boy-aura to you and I want to say there’s a geologist saying “You rock” and you rock not because of your Jersey connection, but because I feel a kinship to you. We both came down to Washington. You get to go home, I think, and I’m gonna stick it out here and battle it out. You deal with the pragmatism that I deal with. I had to cut 25 percent of my employees as a mayor and one of the reason I had to cut so much is because health costs were going up so much, my taxpayers couldn’t afford it. I had to balance a budget every year. So do you. And the challenge that you have and that I’ve seen from working with global manufacturers in my city that I wanted to expand — and you said you export products to China, right? You’re competing globally, right? I like you a lot — and when you compete globally you’re competing against companies in Europe and Asia and across the globe, right?, and many of those countries have different health care systems and most of our competitor nations have much lower health care costs, right?”

When Marlin Steel’s president also pointed out large tax inequities that make it difficult to compete globally, such as against Canada, Senator Booker responded, “I want to compete with Canada in every way, expect for Toronto. Their mayor is having challenges there ….” Continue reading