A uniquely Clare view of plastics

By: 
October 22, 2018

An avid and award-winning photographer, senior editor Clare Goldsberry is better known to readers as a long-time plastics industry reporter, and by her own estimate has written 10,000 articles over the past 30 years. Add to this comprehensive and perhaps unmatched portfolio the fact that she’s also literally written the books on the business and you have an expert industry insider who has had a front seat in plastics’ past and present. And, if you don’t know it already, Clare is openly opinionated.

Clare GoldsberryThus PlasticsToday felt it was fitting to kick off a new looking-inward-and-outward series with the editorial staff with the fascinating Ms. Goldsberry that we hope that you find as edutaining as did this reporter.

Let’s start at the beginning: Where does your interest and passion for writing originate? And what about for plastics?

Goldsberry: When have I not been interested in and passionate about writing? I was born with the passion for writing. I was called to be a writer at the age of 10 while sitting in my “thinking tree”—a huge, white-barked Sycamore tree by the creek that ran through our farm pondering what I would be when I grew up.

My inner voice told me, “You’re going to be a writer, Clare.” That was the first time this “voice” spoke to me, but it would not be the last. I have written all my life, filling dozens of notebooks with my thoughts in essays and opinions. I learned that I had a gift, a true talent.

As one Arizona State University (ASU) college professor told me each time I would turn in an article for the journalism class he taught, “You have the gift, Clare. There’s really nothing I can teach you.” And so I accepted that I have the gift that I’d pursued all my life beginning very early on in my childhood.

As for plastics, I’ve always loved manufacturing,. That came from watching my dad, who was a tool and die maker for GE, make beautiful things in his woodworking shop. He loved machines and working with his hands. On weekends he’d work in the woodworking shop he’d set up in a renovated barn on our farm.

Tell us more about your educational background.

Goldsberry: I began attending college at Weber State University in Ogden, UT, in 1979. After moving to Arizona in 1981, I began attending ASU in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. I became so enamored with learning so many different things and taking classes just because they sounded interesting, that I graduated in 1991 with a BA in journalism and a double minor in marketing management and public relations. However, with 150 credit hours behind me, my eclectic studies gave me the most wonderful variety of learning, and I graduated with honors.

It’s apparent that fundamental to your articles is that it be based on scientifically sound information. How did this come about?

Goldsberry: Plastics is a scientific business and relies on science to enable the materials to be developed and perform the way they do in all the various applications from toys to medical to automotive, electrical, aircraft and more. I love science and it’s absolutely necessary if we are to maintain plastics as a viable material and enjoy its many benefits. I believe it is the only way to fight the hype of plastic haters. Science should win out—whether it will or not is still a question. Many people do not understand science nor accept science, probably because there are too many “alternative facts” to almost every question. But I keep trying.

What can you say about your time with PlasticsToday’s legacy publication, Modern Plastics?

Goldsberry: I believe Modern Plastics was purchased by Canon from its original owner and was likely the oldest plastics technical trade publication in the world. I remember trying to read Modern Plastics when I first started with Tech Plastics back in the early 1980s, but it was extremely technical, written for scientists and engineers in the industry, full of chemical symbols, diagrams of polymer chains, etc. It wasn’t readable by the general plastics person but it wasn’t meant to be.

When Modern Plastics became part of the IMM family, I was asked to help them “revise” the publication to make it accessible to the general plastics industry worker, including business aspects of plastics processing—Modern covered all processes except injection molding, as that was left for IMM. I'm not sure that ever really worked; the industry was used to the traditional Modern Plastics and the new version never really caught on. Maybe I’m wrong as I was not an employee and was not privy to the financials of the publications.

I think what made both IMM and me so successful was that I tackled the business aspects of molding and moldmaking, an approach that was lacking in the industry at that time.

I used to say that these molders and moldmakers were great at making molds and molding parts, but were terrible business people. So I made it my mission to write books to help them.Clare Goldsberry books

Through Abby, I first wrote The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder. After Suzy Witzler gave me the okay, I pounded that book out in a month, and it was a big hit. Abby sold many books at NPE and other trade shows, but mine was a big seller because I spoke their language, knew the business from the inside out, and offered them sound, real-world advice.

Next came my three-book series: Marketing Strategies for Molders and Mold Makers; Marketing Communication Strategies for Molders and Mold Makers; and Sales Strategies for Molders and Mold Makers. They came out as a set to be read in that order. I still have a few of those books around and now and then I still get calls for them, which I send out for free.

Next was a book to help purchasing agents understand molds and molding: Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide to help professional purchasing people deal with moldmakers and answer their questions about why molds cost so darn much! All of my books sold extremely well. I did a lot of book signings at the various trade shows, especially NPE. I hope that my insights helped molders and moldmakers and others do a better job so that business is easier for everyone.

[Note: Some of her books can be found at Amazon at this link].

I’ve also worked with molders and moldmakers on their marketing and sales strategies with a three-day visit to their plants, interviewing employees, surveying customers, reviewing their marketing communications materials etc., then devising a marketing plan to help them grow their business. I also put together my “1-Day Marketing Makeover”—fly in one day, spend one day at the plant and out by day’s end—to provide my observations, evaluations, etc. about where they could improve their marketing and sales and business development efforts. I believe it’s helped many of them understand how to be better business people and learn to promote themselves—something they’ve always had trouble doing. Too many like to “fly under the radar” (see my blog Flying Under the Radar is NOT a Business Strategy, published July 2015).

Tell us a little about the Plastics Pioneers Association.

Goldsberry: Well, the PPA is a great organization and I love being around those who’ve spent much more time in the industry than I have. They are a wealth of information and I love picking their brains about materials, processes and innovations of which many have been a part all their lives.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the plastics business?

Goldsberry: I’ve seen how small, family-owned molding and moldmaking companies have evolved into larger, well-run businesses. Some have grown into very large businesses and then been acquired by even bigger companies. I hope I’ve been a part of that—helping them do business better so that they were able to grow their companies into attractive acquisitions for bigger companies. It’s still difficult for very small companies to make it—the Goliaths (GM, Ford, 3M, Whirlpool, etc.) still make life difficult for the Davids of the industry. That’s why these smaller companies had to grow! It was grow or be killed! Many were killed by the big OEMs—so many are absolutely ruthless in their dealings with these guys—another reason I wrote the books! To help them stand up to these Goliaths!

Next: Being a woman in plastics plus industry insights

PLASTEC Minneapolis 2018 held October 31-November 1 is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that also includes MinnPack brings you the latest in materials and additives, injection molding, rapid prototyping, coatings, automation, packaging and more. For details, visit PLASTEC Minneapolis.

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