Building affordable, durable, sought-after composite products isn’t an easy task; if it was, then everybody would be doing it. There are challenges with the production pipeline, technology, workforce and finances. Chief Financial Officer Michelle Bourdage knows a lot about many of these challenges — especially the finance part — so much so that she was recently honored as a finalist for the 2017 Plastics News CFO of the Year Award. Here are some of her thoughts on issues, good and bad, facing a composites manufacturer like Romeo RIM.
Q: Why did you join the Romeo RIM team?
A: Romeo RIM, Incorporated has been in business since 1982 and with the same family private equity ownership that entire time. The stability of the organization coupled with it’s internal innovation and overall Lean Enterprise attracted me to Romeo RIM.
Q: What unique financial challenges do manufacturers face?
A: In the manufacturing sector there are a lot of moving components such as material, labor, and productivity. The challenge is getting pertinent information to individuals quickly to make strategic decisions. We use business intelligence systems and dashboards to provide continuous visibility for quick alignment as necessary.
Q: What industries are revenue drivers for Romeo RIM?
A: Romeo RIM participates in a wide range of industries. In addition to our proprietary bumper business, we also support the Spa, Agriculture& Construction, On Highway, and other industries such as Leisure vehicles.
Q: How does Romeo RIM continue to attract quality talent and produce quality products while keeping costs low?
A: Our associates at work are the core strategic advantage we have in the marketplace. All of us are expected to live by the Core Behaviors we have established as HIREE (Help, Integrity, Respect, Engage, Excel). We are constantly receiving customer and supplier comments about the huge transformation at Romeo over the last 4 years. I am happy to have been a part of that transformation and have done my part as the leader of the Financial and Information Technology group to help, support, and innovate the business.
Q: Why is working at Romeo RIM different from other places you have worked?
A: All of my work experiences have contributed to the person I am today. One of the unique aspects of working at Romeo RIM is the cohesion that exists amongst the team.
Q: How has the servant leadership culture at Romeo RIM impacted you?
A: Leadership is having a vested interest in the success of others. A servant leader is simply someone who serves first, and is recognized as a leader by others either formally or informally. As a result people are willing to let you lead because you have served them first. I read a blog recently where servant leadership was simply described as an improved approach to the classic “Okay guys, I’m in charge!” It further described the difference between SERVICE – where it’s about serving others – and SERVE US – where you become the center. Being a good listener; putting others above yourself; and being accountable are just a few of the pillars of exemplifying leadership and serving others that have impacted me at Romeo RIM.
Q: From a financial standpoint, what does the future of composites manufacturing look like?
A: Since 1960, the U.S. composites industry has grown 25 times, whereas the steel industry has only grown 1.5 times and the aluminum industry is three times larger, according to market research firm Lucintel. Major drivers in the market include increased demand for lightweight and fuel-efficient vehicles, growth in new construction, upgrade of old infrastructures and increased demand for the wind industry.