Bridgeport Machines was a world leader in manufacturing standard and CNC milling machines. My company handled their international marketing. We had the opportunity to make their RC3 CNC Machine the number one seller in the world in 18 months.
The company endured several difficult changes, new CEOs, sold to an investment firm, and finally sold to another machining company. Each change became a spark that caused a wildfire of problems. More than 500 people worked there and built the finest machine tools in the industry. When it all ended the company sent 500 plus workers home without a job.
Their closing and loss of a major account impacted my own employees. I had to make painful layoffs which wrenched my heart. Over 500 families were impacted, and as bad as I felt about my agency, I could not imagine hard working men and women going home that day to tell their families they were out of work.
My godfather was among those 500 people. I’m Italian so godparents are an important tradition. He was a highly skilled and specialized craftsman, hand-scraping the ways on machines, not a skill that fit the general job market. His family suffered. All our family helped, but it made an unforgettable impact on me. And, the United States of American had just lost a premiere employer and world leader in business.
Plus, my agency suffered (in part) because I lost sight of diversifying. I allowed that one client to become too large a percentage of my company’s revenues. I can tell you that watching good people pack their stuff and leave your company is living a nightmare in real time. It’s something you can only learn by experience, not by reading it in a book.
It was the broken glass. That did it for me.
There are times in life when some situation occurs that changes us—transforms us. The demise of Bridgeport Machines served as mine. The broken glass is what clinched it for me. The business was gone. The heart of it gone. The people gone. The future gone. Just an empty shell of a building which became a target for local kids to throw rocks into someone else’s dream. Now reduced to a carcass of glass, metal and bricks. Lifeless! And unlike in ancient marriage ceremonies where a wine glass is broken as a symbol of the end of one way of life and start of a new one; the broken glass on that building was the end of an era. Looking long and hard at those broken windows–that really did it for me.
From that moment I knew I would use all my skills and business experience to work at preventing and extinguishing business loses. I believe each of us is in the world with a “calling,” and this became mine. Nothing makes an impact on you like first-hand experience.
When I first started my business, I gave up a highly visible and well-paying position in advertising to follow my own dream. Many business owners have taken similar risks. Nothing is more personal than one’s business, whether you own it or function as a leader in it. It demands your money, time, heart, commitment and passion.
What I have come to learn is that unless the leaders and the people in a company have a purpose, and a reason to make a difference there, they will either, cease to exist, operate by fear, run in mediocrity or some other lackluster environment. And I just can’t comprehend why anyone running a company would want any of those outcomes. I also learned that in many cases they don’t know or believe they can change anything. That’s where I live my life, working with people who know there is more, that they can be a head above.