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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

P2P Client: MSI, Inc.

P2P Client: MSI, Inc.

Quality, Value...and Moving Forward with Confidence

Scattered among 4 buildings in Morrisville and Hyde Park, the employees of Manufacturing Solutions Inc. (MSI) assemble a myriad of products for customers such as Concept 2’s rowers and blades and components of Blodgett ovens, in a LEAN manufacturing environment. Started in 1996 by Garret Hirchak and his wife Beth Salvas, MSI has become one of Morrisville’s largest employers with over 77 employees. And unlike many businesses in this tough economic climate, they plan to add 10-15 new employees in 2009 due to the anticipated doubling of work from one of their growing customers.

MSI is a contract assembly manufacturer that has experienced steady growth in revenue and employees since it was established. According to Concept 2 Chief Financial Officer Linda Markin, “When our long-time employee, Garret Hirchak, expressed interest in starting his own business providing assembly services for manufacturers, we saw it as an opportunity to grow our business while keeping production jobs local.” Since then, MSI has added five additional customers and has worked hard to diversify its revenue base so as not to be dependent on any one client.

MSI began working with the Peer to Peer Collaborative in May 2007 after HR Manager Davis Koier heard about the program while listening to the radio. “I was listening to VPR’s Switchboard program and there was a reference to P2P working with businesses. At the time, we were trying to get a grip on where the company was really at and how we were going to grow it to the next level. It seemed to me that P2P could assist us with our questions, so I called the VSJF the next day and got the process rolling.”

A Peer Advisor team was assembled and began working on a number of key issues that had been identified during an Organizational Assessment conducted by VSJF Executive Director, Ellen Kahler and Lawrence Miller (CEO, Danforth Pewterers).

According to Koier, “our monthly work sessions were a helpful sounding board; a real reality check. Our peer advisors had more experience than we did in managing growth and they were able to really mentor us through the process. Getting everyone on the management team to understand our financial statements and for those statements to be part of a planning process which could help us judge the effectiveness of changes we were putting in place was an important part of our learning. This in turn helped us with quoting for new work and understanding our real value as a company – not just our assembly work but also our value added expertise and how to get paid for that work from our customers.”

Another important change for the company was the development of Garret Hirchak as CEO. As companies grow in size and complexity it’s important for the CEO to continue to evolve as the leader of the organization. Many CEOs never realize that the transition from being a start-up, hands-on CEO to a strategic, coach CEO is critical to their company’s continued growth and profitability.

For Hirchak, that meant an important change in his day-to-day work duties. “Before P2P, I spent a lot of time on new building acquisitions for production capacity needs we had and fixing them up and not as much time with the management of MSI. Working with our P2P team was good because it helped draw my attention back to MSI where it belongs. I saw working on the business was really important, rather than just working in the business. I learned to identify where I really add value to the company as the CEO and how to develop our management team to work on the other pieces that are also important to the business. Focusing on what I am best at and what I enjoy doing, these are the things that led to improvements to our bottom line. Getting clearer on my appropriate role has also led to a new sense of empowerment for the management team and it’s given them the authority to act in ways that are adding the most value to the work they are responsible for.”

Hirchak sums up his experience with P2P this way, “Because of the way the program is structured, we have gained new confidence in our own abilities and we’ve learned to recognize that we do have expertise and sale-ability. Learning to recognize our value to our customers and to then be compensated for that value has made a huge difference to our bottom line and to our future.”