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December 1, 2006

3 Min Read
Human resources at USI: Driving the business with passion

Todd Bennett (center, yellow shirt) and the USI leadership team work with other employees on a lean manufacturing time study.

You likely are very passionate about your business; now get your people to adopt that passion so that you are not alone.

Passion for your business, your company, and your customers is a component of what drives success. However, warns Todd Bennett, president of contract injection molder United Southern Industries (USI; Forest City, NC), you need the business culture to support it.

“Like any team or group, you have to have the right people on the bus with you, and there’s a process for this,” says Bennett. “Human capital management is key to creating a passionate culture. I can be a cheerleader, but as the driver I have to develop it and sustain it by going out on the floor and conveying that passion to the people.”

Jeff Mengel, a consultant with Plante & Moran LLC (Chicago), consults with plastics processors nationwide and also performs a Molders Survey to take the pulse of the industry. He agrees that creating the right culture can make a difference.

“What separates the successful from the struggling [in the molding business] is oftentimes the soft assets, such as culture, are neglected,” Mengel says. “Strong-culture companies bond very well and address their customer issues as well as their company issues. Consequently, they tend to have much better results, both in terms of financial and enjoyment.”

Bennett believes that passion involves being compassionate by listening and caring, and getting involved with employees. But, employees also need to understand your expectations. “Look them in the eye with conviction and energy and convey to them that this is serious; we have to be winners and we have high expectations of employees and everyone around them,” Bennett states enthusiastically. “They need to see you get involved with everyone—demonstrating a compelling need to succeed, not just talking about it.”

John Blakensop of Britax, a manufacturer of child safety seats and a USI customer, views this involvement as part of what sets United Southern apart from other companies he deals with. “Todd Bennett and his staff are deeply involved in all levels of the operation,” says Blakensop. “I can see the passion they convey in action whenever I go to visit.”

Developing trust and respect from the workforce creates security among your employees and your passion amplifies because they believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, Bennett explains. “You have to sell them on that security,” he says. “Our employees hear a lot of talk in the media about problems in manufacturing, but we need to convey to them that what they’re hearing in the news isn’t necessarily impacting USI, which makes clear, concise, trustworthy communication with employees about the company’s strengths more critical.”

Giving employees the confidence that USI is a strong company and that they’re part of the strength is critical to developing passion. “You can manage through fear and intimidation, or from a leadership position of compassion, focus, and motivation,” Bennett states. “If people are secure in their job and as individuals, they’ll give everything they’ve got.”

Clare Goldsberry • [email protected]

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