Founding and building a successful injection molding company isn't easy, but when you have the right formula, a company with a successful past can have a radiant future in spite of changes. A year ago next month, Jerry Williams, a co-founder of Prism Plastics, died after a battle with cancer at the age of 51. He and partners Gerry Phillips and Rod Bricker had shared careers in the plastics industry and in 1999 started their own injection molding company, Prism Plastics, in Chesterfield, MI. They rented an 8,000-square-foot building. "We hung out our shingle and we were in business," said Phillips.
"It was tougher than we thought when we first started," Phillips said in an interview with PlasticsToday. Prism Plastics grew rapidly primarily because it was a financially conservative company. "That strategy served us well and helped us achieve success," he said. "We didn't take on debt, and when the 2008 recession came and hit the molding market, we had the wherewithal to weather the storm. We were about $5 million in 2009 and today we're at about $30 million annually."
In May 2014, the three partners sold a stake in the company to Altus Capital Partners II LP, and in August Jerry Williams passed away. "Altus has been a steadfast partner and we're pleased with that," said Phillips. "However, after Jerry's death I began thinking about retirement and the charitable work that I love doing, and taking advantage of the situation I'm in. I still retain significant ownership in the company and will continue to have that interest in the company."
He considers the core of Prism's history of success to be its "strategy of focus," Phillips said. "We're not all things to all people. From day one, our focus was hard-to-mold, tight-tolerance, high-volume applications that can be automated. Over our 15-plus years in business, we've had opportunities to stray from our focus with people asking us about vertical molding or getting larger molding presses, but we never did that. It's hard to say no but we stayed true to our focus and it's paid off."
It is this type of focused strategy that Phillips said is aiding the company in its move into medical molding. With about 80% of the company's automotive molding business in federally regulated safety parts for automotive, which are critical to produce in high volumes with no errors, the company's dedicated focus will continue to be what it's always been.
Jeff Ignatowski, Prism's Director of Sales and Marketing, added that the other piece of that is the company's execution of its strategy. "We don't take shortcuts," he said. "It's done right, done to the letter and we stay focused. Looking at the types of processes we offer and the way we execute these, medical makes total sense for us."
The future is bright for Prism, and Phillips expects that its history of continuous growth will be the company's future for many years to come. With three facilities—two in Michigan and one on the Mexico border in Harlingen, TX—the company is looking at securing another facility. "We're looking to expand into other vehicle components," said Ignatowski. "We continue to see good opportunities for metal-to-plastic conversions—parts with tight tolerances in areas such as the drive train, under-the-hood and fuel systems, and big programs in steering, as well. We're in early stages of discussing where plant four will be located."
Co-founder and partner, Rod Bricker, will oversee operations to continue Prism's history of success far into the future. When the trio founded Prism Plastics, they knew they could offer an enhanced level of service, better quality and performance. There were roadblocks, but they always believed they could do better, and that belief stands today as Prism moves forward into the future.
Phillips' charitable endeavors will continue. The last event he will oversee as part of Prism is the first annual "Jerry Williams Shootout for the Cure," to be held on August 28 at the St. Clair Golf Club, where Jerry Williams was a member. "We plan put this on as an annual event," said Phillips. "It will be a great outing completely sponsored by Prism, so that every dollar that is spent goes 100% to cancer research at St. John Providence Foundation in Detroit, where the Jerry Williams Foundation has been established."
Anyone interested in signing up for the golf outing should click here.