Mike graduated in 2015 from William Paterson University, where he studied New and Digital Marketing Methods. During his senior year, he accepted an internship at an advertising agency that specialized in marketing for manufacturing and logistics companies. This is where he developed his passion for manufacturing that ultimately led him to the New Jersey Manufacturing Extensions Program where he can actively make a difference and support the industry.
Why are you advocating so vigorously for the manufacturing industry?
It kind of goes off of the fact that it's been stigmatized. Manufacturing, when people think about it, they think the dark, dirty, dangerous facilities in the Henry Ford videos of the assembly line where right now it's so beyond that image, where it without talking about advocating for it, students, young adults won't know that the industry average salary in New Jersey is over $94,000 a year. That impact on the nation of high-paying jobs, the impact to the GDP of the nation itself is just too important to forget about or let dwindle. So those factors really are the sole reason why people need to speak up for manufacturing and get that underappreciated opportunity in the forefront, where there's so much opportunity, there's so much value for the workers, the communities, the states, the nation. Without advocating for it, it's just gonna get forgotten because when I was in school, I was told that all manufacturing went overseas. So I didn't look at the industry and I think that was a miss. But glad I made it to where I can actually talk about it and engage with students and engage with the local communities to make sure people know about the opportunities.
How can manufacturers ensure the success of their business and the industry as a whole here in the US?
It goes back to advocacy. Stay engaged with the local community, and really the local government, because, in New Jersey, the legislature thought that all manufacturing moved. They're lawyers, they're business people and professional services, they're not necessarily manufacturers, so they didn't know the industry existed, especially to the extent it does, where New Jersey has over 11,000 manufacturing and stem firms. So if manufacturers get engaged, speak up and come together at events, you have an opportunity to convince or at least showcase the value of the industry to let the local government know where they can create legislation and bills, and laws to support the industry. What you put in is what you get out of it. If you're looking internally, you can look forward and really take into consideration of continuous improvement mindset. That continuous improvement mindset could be that advocacy push, that engagement, always trying to improve how you engage with your local community or your production line. How can you advance yourself to really kind of drive your own business forward in a way? It's not all new tech, but there is a lot of new tech involved too so don't be turned away by buzzwords where the buzzwords are really, at least pieces of stuff you can implement today. Systems, automation processes, robotics that you can implement today. Lastly, never, never, ever be too busy to approve. That's my biggest thing. If you're too busy to improve, you're just going to keep on taking steps backward. It's not going to stay the same, you're not going to continue that growth. You're always going to have to improve and find that time to take those steps forward.
Can the manufacturing industry benefit from Digital networking tools to help promote themselves in the industry?
It doesn't necessarily have to be that much of a shift off of improving your business or improving your standing within the state in terms of an industry because digital tools are all a different way that you can kind of get the word out there and advocate for yourself, find and connect with thought leaders who might have some insight of how you can find continuous improvement for yourself in business. So you can look inwards, and again, look towards the community, look towards the government and figure out different ways that you can promote yourself as a thought leader or connect with people that are thought leaders in the industry to learn from speak up about. Also, USA manufacturing hour on Twitter is a great chat, #USAMFGHOUR. It happens every Thursday, it's a big community of manufacturers that come together, they all talk on Twitter answered questions on a specific topic and it's just a great networking opportunity. You can use these digital tools like Twitter, or even if you want to look at automation, for continuous improvement, use these digital tools to really bolster your business, bolster your brand, bolster your image, and get the most out of what these technologies can offer. It doesn't just have to be kind of a superficial thing, it really could be a tool to be used to improve your manufacturing operation as a whole.
Can you share with us one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
It goes back to the USA Manufacturing Hour and maybe it's not my most successful, but it's a great kind of case study for how networking can kind of evolve. So we were doing one of these Twitter chats, which evolved into a zoom mixer, and everyone's going around the zoom call introducing themselves and I was kind of just writing names down that resonated with me. The conversations were great, the breakout sessions were great, but one name and one person and one company in there really stood out. They seem familiar so I reached out and direct messaged them in the zoom chat and as I hit send, they hit send and we connected. We had a meeting after the zoom chat and we're talking both in manufacturing marketing spaces, different mediums. I'm copy communications, they were digital and photography and video. We were just talking and we realized we ended up knowing the same people, actually family friends from when we were children. So how weird that is, and how funny that is in and of itself is just an interesting story of how connections are made. But it actually turned into a pretty good friendship and because we are all in that same networking circle, we've actually been able to create this great professional relationship where we share ideas, share contacts, and it's astonishing how many of the same people we knew, or how many people that I've been engaged with, that they've been trying to get in touch with, and vice versa. So we really became this great little team of just friends that are in the same industry, after the same kind of work, and have been able to bounce ideas back and forth and really grow our network together. So because of that, it really helped expand our reach. We've had actually, national news networks reach out to us because of the engagement that we've been able to do and the PR that we've been able to put out through these networking events. So it really goes to show that a small coincidence of how it took an hour of my time today to get on that mixer to really kind of expand the reach in a big, big way.
As you continue to meet new people and expand and grow your community, how do you stay in front of them and best nurture these relationships?
I love to do reminders on my Outlook calendar. Sometimes I'll just put a, "Hey, let's just throw a time on the calendar in the next quarter," we'll connect we'll touch base, we'll shoot an email back and forth to see if there's a reason to get on a call. It really is just constant maintenance. That's a challenging part of any relationship, right? That nurturing, staying engaged, but the digital tools that we have are just fantastic. We have the Outlook calendar, we have LinkedIn, we have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, it's easy to keep on sharing content. You know what? When they pop up on my newsfeed, and I haven't spoken to them in a while, I'm gonna shoot him a text to see if everything's good has business. But also creating opportunities to re-engage. We have Manufacturing Matters, our quarterly magazine that takes contributors, advertising opportunities, and it's great. Every quarter there's new reasons to reach out to new contacts that we've made over the quarter, over the year, over the decade, and reach out say, "Hey, do you want to contribute an article? How's everything going?" So it's about creating your own reasons to reach out, opportunities, content that is mutually beneficial, has been the most beneficial, and of course, utilizing those digital tools that we have at our fingertips.
What advice would you offer the business professionals looking to grow their network?
Get out there, talk to Lori, get connected with the local communities and also your social communities? When I first started going to Manufacturer Hour, I said to myself, "There's no way there's going to be a Twitter following per manufacturer." Not only was I wrong, there already was, but getting engaged and getting actively engaged in it helped it grow and it just snowballs. You'd be so surprised how many places there are for niche industries. So just going out and doing a quick Google search, a quick networking event. Just go out there and talk to people, that's really everything. Whether it's on Twitter, whether it's on LinkedIn, stay consistent with it and really educate yourself so when you have those meetings, you have those conversations where you can provide value and then they can provide value back. So it's a two-way street there.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
That's a good question. Probably fewer video games and TV. More industry publications and case studies. Education is everything and staying plugged in with the industry is everything. I was lucky enough to start my career in this specific space at 22 so that's really where I kind of dove in and started learning about the industry and reading all those articles. I would also tell myself to take a few more English classes and writing classes to hone that in and even more so because right now, content is always king, whether it's video, audio, or written! So any production courses that you can use to produce your own content, whether it's an article on LinkedIn, a quick little video that you're going to shoot and share to your network. Learning the industry, I would put that number one, and then two, anything that can help you my 20-year-old self produced better, more consistent content.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
I know exactly who! Jim Womack, no relation by the way. They call him the godfather of Lean Manufacturing which is a methodology that helps cut out waste in a production operation. When I was learning about the industry reading about Lean, it's a great topic for manufacturers because it's a great way to do more with fewer people and fewer resources. The name Womack kept on popping up, my own last name, and I was so confused and then Jim Womack ended up being the person that really kind of brought Lean to the forefront in America from Japan. So I know Harry Moser actually owns a house right next to him so I think I can get him.
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