Article reprint from Wire Rope News & Sling Technology
M&G Industries: President Joan Rosenthal takes charge and spurs change | Barbara McGrath
— M&G Industries provides marine aircraft cable and fittings to meet the highest industry and federal standards for recreational and commercial marine uses. Our Trawlmaster is the most respected and asked for fishing rope in the fishing industry today. Metallurgically formulated to our specifications, Trawlmaster fishes longer and more consistently than competitive brands. The focus on quality extends to our Sailmaster yacht rigging cable available in both 302/304 and type 316 stainless steel. Fishermen and Sailors can be sure that our cable and rigging hardware will withstand the most severe environmental conditions, yet deliver superb performance. Trawling products that help you master the sea Cross more bridges with high quality cables Article reprint from Wire Rope News & Sling Technology... M&G Industries: President Joan Rosenthal takes charge and spurs change ... by Barbara McGrath When she visited one of her Asian suppliers last year, they presented her with a necktie and made it clear that they had expected Mr. Rosenthal. But the wife of the late Marty Rosenthal has ignored nay sayers and given M&G Industries new perspective... Joan Rosenthal, wife of the late Martin Rosenthal, took charge of M&G Industries in June, 1994. Since then the company has redesigned their logo, created an impressive four-color catalog, instituted a quality control program, and built a new building. "We were renting in East Providence, Rhode Island until the fall of last year," Joan says. "And we were so crowded. Marty had been sick with multiple myeloma - it's a bone marrow cancer - for five years. And we were undecided about what we were going to do ... sell the company or keep the company." Although his health was declining, Marty continued to work. In the spring of '94, doctors predicted he had another year and a half to live. When he was stricken with an infection, his relatively sudden death was unexpected. In his will, he left the company to Joan.
Moving ahead... It hasn't been easy, Rosenthal readily admits. "There was emotional baggage - and some problems with employees finding it difficult dealing with the changes going on, building the new building, and making sure the bank stayed happy... "At first I got some complaints that our customers would think (the new location) was too far. We're actually 10 miles from where we had been located. And it takes an extra five or 10 minutes. For the vast majority of my employees, it really turned out to be closer." Joan sits in her new office, overlooking an industrial park in the quaint coastal town of Bristol, Rhode Island. Through one window, she can view one of M&G's customers, a sailboat manufacturer. "Most of our neighbors deal with the sailboat industry...making sailboats or parts for sailboats. Gertz (located down the street) builds the America's Cup boats." M&G sells offshore cable and fittings used in diverse markets, including commercial and recreational marine, industrial building construction, pet supplies and poultry (cable is used to open and close curtains that separate the chickens). They sell some domestic products, including chain. M&G also has its own brand name fishing rope, Trawlmaster. "We don't sell to the end user. We're a wholesale distributor.
So rather than sell to the boat, we sell to the company that sells to the boat - like to a ship chandler of fabricator." Better view... Through another window in her office Rosenthal can watch golfers playing on the 9-hole course that meanders through the industrial park. "I decided to have this building built," she says. "The East Providence office was probably a total of 12,000 sq. ft. It was really chopped up - with corridors all over the place." And she didn't like leasing warehouse space. "This costs less per month, we have twice as much space, and we own it. And the area is designated by the state as an Enterprise Zone. There are credits if we hire more people. The town of Bristol also gives tax credits for the first five years. "So there are many benefits to being here... Besides, I live practically across the street," Rosenthal adds with a laugh. Still smiling, she admits to the minor perils of having a window across the street from the golf tee. Two balls hit the windows during the week that M&G moved into the building. "But they moved the tee over. I think it's helped. And I put the awning up. That will help keep the windows intact." Room to grow... Marty Rosenthal founded M&G in 1974. He had been working for a Japanese trading house, which became his source for products. At a time when Japanese imports were just starting to attract interest in the U.S., he was a go-between for the offshore facility and a customer looking for discounted wire rope and related fittings. "Originally Marty had only direct sales. The product would rarely even touch his office." Then in the early 1980's he purchased Specialty Rope & Metal in Chicago, a distributor like M&G, but with a warehouse. "I believe that they were having difficulty in that the person who owned SRM was going out of business.
So Marty purchased them. (He used their warehouse, and they sell basically in the Midwest area.)" At the same time he decided he would get a public warehouse in New Bedford (in nearby Massachusetts, about a 1/2 hour from Providence). Then in 1986 Marty decided to move the company to East Providence, where he rented office an warehouse space. The Chicago office distributes the same products. "For freight purposes it's cheaper to have a second location where shipping doesn't cost as much," Rosenthal explains. We (the Bristol office) sell very little west of the Rockies, although we still have some customers that we sell to on a direct basis." Today computers dot the desks of most of M&G's employees, linked by a network. The company has grown from one employee - Marty - back in 1974, to 25. And Joan Rosenthal, who continued to teach math until the time her husband died, has had to "change hats" from educator to manager. Surprise for suppliers... And are there any challenges specific to being female in a male-dominated industry? "There are more women in the wire rope industry in the Midwest than in this section of the country. I have a saleswomen in my Chicago office that does a fantastic job. And she's been in the business for perhaps 20 years of more. But if you go to the Associated Wire Rope Fabricators (AWRF) meetings, it's basically men. And I don't think there are many women who are head of companies." Rosenthal feels that for her own employees, here transition to ownership has been easier because M&G is a family owned company. And she had been actively involved, working in the office during the summer and daily after school. As for competitors, "Without a doubt, there are those who didn't think I'd be successful." But the toughest group of nay sayers has been here foreign suppliers, who Rosenthal says were sure that she would fail. "Most of the companies we purchase from are Asian companies, and they're very male-oriented." When she visited Korea in 1995, a supplier offered her a necktie for a gift. "People blatantly said they were expecting Mr. Rosenthal." Secrets of successful importing...
Most of M&G's suppliers are in Japan, South Korea and China. After his first success importing Japanese products, Marty, with the help of fellow businessman Sam Yoshioka, found new suppliers in South Korea. In the Mid 70's he ventured into China. "Rhode Island Senator Chafee was instrumental in getting his 'foot through the door.' Marty was one of the first people to purchase in China. He went before normalization. And he was just purchasing hardware products. The quality has improved tremendously over the past 20 years. Marty and I went to China in 1988, and we started negotiating to buy aircraft cable. And by about 1994 the company that we purchased our aircraft cable from began to make a quality product." So far, Rosenthal is wary of buying from other countries. "South Americans are really just beginning to get their foot into the door with some of these products. I know that we've been solicited by trading companies there looking for business. But they're not as developed as the oriental countries. You have to realize - (she pauses and laughs at herself, commenting that she's sounding like a teacher) - and I'm sure you DO realize that Japan was developed with America's help after the Korean War. So we created our competition." Being an importer, and having a distribution warehouse halfway across the country means that Rosenthal has to keep a watchful eye on the news. In early June, when reporters told of the clamp down on pirating in China, she worried that new international policies might affect imports. The earthquake in Kobe, Japan (in 1995) sent prices up. "There might be a train strike within the next month or so. And our merchandise that goes to Chicago is dropped off in the west coast, picked up by train and brought to Chicago." Then there are the challenges of dealing with suppliers who have extremely different cultural backgrounds and languages. Yet, Rosenthal says she's impressed with their business savvy and intelligence. "I find that they're very bright, and able to speak English much better than my husband thought they could. Marty used to talk to them in broken English. And I don't. The first time I went to Japan, I was talking to a Japanese gentlemen and Marty was having a conversation with another Japanese. The man turned to me and said, "You speak so much better English than your husband." She speaks softly, but... Since she's taken over the company, Rosenthal has revised some of M&G's business strategies. For one thing, she no longer sells scaffolding ropes. "Marty used to sell scaffolding ropes. But I don't anymore. The liability isn't worth it. Despite the fact that we carry liability insurance, all you need is one person to get hurt, and it could wipe out the whole company." M&G now buys from only a select few Asian suppliers, which Rosenthal feels assures her better control over quality. She remembers bad experiences in years past, like the time M&G purchased aircraft cable from a relatively unknown Chinese manufacturer. "I had $30,000 worth of aircraft cable sitting at our old warehouse, which we've since scrapped." She feels that buying large quantities from fewer suppliers gives M&G an edge when it comes to product availability and price. "Because I don't buy from numerous suppliers, they don't want to lose the business. It's very different if you by $500,000 worth of product as opposed to $3 million. I have more leverage." South Korea, for instance, has a check price list. So everybody is paying the same price. But I still go to all the other companies for quotes. Then I go back to my main supplier of hardware and say, "Well this is the price that I was offered on this and this and this." In fact, she had just spoken to an Asian supplier that morning. "I told him that if he didn't meet the other prices on a particular item, it was all or nothing." She smiled. "That's when he told me that I was too tough."