What was it like working in the plastics industry as a woman?
Goldsberry: It wasn’t always easy, especially wanting to work in sales. Actually, one company wouldn’t let me go into sales. I was told by the sales manager that women were good at selling dresses and makeup, but not injection molding or tooling. But soon after I went to the owners of a moldmaking company that had three injection molding machines. I told these two guys that I was good in sales and marketing, and I could help them grow their business. I’ve never met a stranger and I love people, which made me good in sales. They figured that because I’d worked at that other company that I must know a lot so they hired me.
I developed my own pay plan: $20,000/year base salary; 3% commission on mold builds and 5% commission on molded parts. The commission on molded parts would last for 18 months or the life of the program, then it would revert to a “house account”, but only the program would revert, not the customer. The customer I would keep and continue to work with to get more business. They thought they’d made a cheap deal. But I know that a good sales person can double or triple their base salary if they were a go-getter, which I was.
I had customers throughout the Western U.S. including Compaq Computer, HP in San Diego and Boise, Keytronic, big medical companies like Ivac, Imed, Abbott Labs, Utah Medical, and even one or two jobs from Becton Dickinson’s Utah plant. I was extremely successful and more than doubled my salary with commissions in the first year. After four years, we’d tripled the number of presses in the plant to nine, and going great guns, and my commissions were nearly triple my base salary. I dealt primarily with men at all of my customers, but having grown up with a tool and die-maker father and two brothers, I knew how men thought and I knew how to deal with them. One even told me that he found me more trustworthy than some of these fast-talking sales guys that called on them. “If you don’t know something, you admit it and will find me the answer,” one customer told me. “I like your honesty and straight-forwardness.” I was always learning, always asking questions, and always working closely with the customers.
Let’s tap your expertise from your front-row seat in plastics for some insights: how do you feel about the current state of the plastics industry?
Goldsberry: The current state of the industry is in fairly good shape, but the looming danger is from the problems I addressed in #10. If the industry doesn’t watch out, it’s going to be in big trouble! I don’t think the industry does enough to combat the hype and hundreds of articles that feed consumers misinformation and uses scare tactics to try and destroy the industry. I know Bill Carteaux, president of the Plastics Industry Assn. would disagree with me—he says they try to do a lot in the way of consumer information, but it’s not enough. Carteaux needs to be at these shareholder meetings sitting alongside activists from As You Sow, Healthy Families and Safer Chemicals. Present some shareholder proposals of the PIA’s making!
What’s the biggest misunderstanding that the public has about plastics?
Goldsberry: That plastics are toxic and cause all kinds of cancers, endocrine disorders, etc. They even believe that the chemicals in plastics like phthalates and BPA, etc. rub off when you handle it. Science skeptics who believe the hype from advocacy groups who want to rid the world of plastic and go back to glass, metal and paper are seriously misinformed.
About how many (plastic) articles do you think you’ve written in your career?
Goldsberry: I’ve probably written 10,000 plastics articles over the past 30 years, some of them humor pieces—yes, even the plastics industry can be funny!—that I wrote for Plastics News. I started freelancing for them in August of 1989, a few months after that publication was founded, and stayed with them until 1995 when I met with Suzy Witzler, one of the owners of Injection Molding Magazine, about freelancing for them. I had a number of books in my head that I just had to write, and they published books through Abby, their publishing arm. Plastics News wasn’t interested in publishing books so I went with Injection Molding Magazine.
Many of my long-time industry friends still remember my “booth bimbo” editorial chiding industrial companies for using scantily-clad women to sell equipment to men at NPE. Oddly enough, except for the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every January, the booth bimbo as a selling tool has gradually disappeared from trade shows in the U.S.
To what do you attribute your remarkably lengthy career?
Goldsberry: My love for manufacturing, the plastics industry and the people in this industry, many of whom have become good, long-time friends. I have earned the trust of the people I’ve worked with and the trust of the people I’ve interviewed—even people like Jon Huntsman Sr., with whom I developed a good relationship.
If people say something is “off the record” it’s off the record. I believe that accuracy in what I write is critical and, except for an occasional typo, I try to maintain a good record for being accurate in my reporting.
I think people appreciate that as they trust me with their words. And I think I’m a good writer. The editor of one other publication for which I write now and then told me one time that having a freelancer who can spell and know grammar, and can be creative is a rare commodity. He said the crap that comes across his desk from people who want to write for him is amazing. I believe it.
As an aside, I taught the Journalism Lab Classes as a Professor’s Assistant in my senior year at ASU in 1990-1991 when I was 43 and I was absolutely stunned that these young people couldn’t spell, couldn’t turn a phrase, didn’t understand sentence structure—they probably never diagramed a sentence in 6th-grade English class!
Teaching them how contractions are used, etc., and the difference between “they’re” and “there” and “their” and many others was itself a near-full-time job. It was the same way when I began teaching English 102 at a local community college as a way to give back and help young students.
Giving back is why I have longevity in this business.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Goldsberry: That came from the movie Throw Momma from the Train, in which the writing workshop class teacher played by Billy Crystal, told student and aspiring writer Owen (Danny DiVito) that “A writer writes always!”
I’ve told many of my students in the Journalism and English classes that I’ve taught that very thing, especially young people who say they want to be writers.
If you want to be a writer—a real writer—you will write every day! Even when I’m on vacation and swear off of computer keyboards, I carry a notebook and pen, and write every day.
Next: A memorable interview, role model and legacy