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Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing Challenge

03 February, 2023

Obstacles and challenges are part of life and business. Manufacturers and supporters share their experiences in this #USAMfgHour discussion on Twitter, led by chat founder Kirsten Austin of DCSC, shipping and supply chain software solutions.


When plans fall apart, do you? Resilience, determination, support, and adversity are just a few qualities that help people accomplish greatness personally as well as professionally. Kirsten Austin of DCSC, the developer of DCWarehouse, a WMS, shipping and supply chain solution for distributors and manufacturers, and #USAMfgHour Twitter chat founder, leads a discussion on overcoming obstacles and embracing challenges.

Facing Fears

What are some of the keys to overcoming obstacles? While there is no easy way, there is growth in work. For an example of inspiration: Harrison Ford was a full-time carpenter until age 35, but he didn't give on his dreams to become an actor. Today, he is one of the most well-respected in the film industry. The goal of this week's chat is to ask participants to open up with their ideas and experiences. "Just be kind and feel free to contribute something you find meaningful," Austin said.

Do you remember a challenge you faced as a kid?

"Oh gosh, yeah. I was terrified of swimming. I hated dunking my head underwater and I had an irrational fear of sharks," said Julianne Schaub with Striven, an all-in-one ERP software solution in New Jersey.

"My brother was a champion track athlete 8 years my senior. His coaches were very excited about my arrival and were crestfallen when the name minus the talent showed up," said Phil Samuels of Intuilize, distributor analytics.

"I didn't read well as an early elementary schooler, so I had to go to special classes for reading improvement! By the time I left the school, I was good," said Sue Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing, the OEM for Arter grinders, Magna-Lock USA work holding, and MagnaLift and Power-Grip lift magnets, Rockford, Illinois.

"School was always challenging. It wasn't until a little later in life before I realized the importance of education," Mike Womack of NJMEP.org, a manufacturing extension program in New Jersey. "This is one of the reasons why NJMEP is so important to me. We have the chance to provide training to manufacturers to upskill their staff!"

"Defeating Bowser in Mario Bros. What a moment! HAHA," said John Buglino of Optessa.

"Just being a kid where I grew up was a challenge," said JD Allen of Cleveland Deburring, a leading provider of deburring machines and solutions, in Ohio.

"I was a super picky eater when I was a kid. My parents would make me sit at the table until I finished. I would sit there for a while after everyone was done. I think it actually came from my stubbornness more than anything," said Ben Nordman of Obsidian.

"I personally always had trouble with math in school...odd that I landed up in this industry considering..." said Noah Katzenstein of Artus Corp., a shim and gasket manufacturer in New Jersey. 

"So many challenges! I think my favorite is that I was fairly reserved as a kid until the reading teacher took a liking to me. She told me "you could teach this class - you have a gift." I've been in communications/marketing ever since," said Dave Meyer of BizzyWeb, growth marketers for manufacturers.

"Although this was over 50 years ago my biggest challenge was my dyslexia. Not recognized back then, but held me back in school," said Nigel T. Packer of PelaTis, a customer experience optimization consultant in the United Kingdom. "I have spent my life finding ways of overcoming the difficulties. I have never let it get in the way of progressing."

"I was afraid of heights from a very young age so anywhere that was high up like amusement parks was hard for me," said Julie Basello of Radwell International, industrial automation products and services.

"Unfortunately, I lost my father to a tragic circumstance when I was six," said Austin. "This event shaped my life in many ways, but if anything, it made me stronger and more compassionate."

Have you ever met someone that did not like you or tried to make your life miserable?

"Yes, I had a senior on my block when I was a freshman that thought I picked on his brother for some reason. We worked out the differences by beating each other up during football training camp. That battle took a while to resolve," said Dan Bigger of Chenango Valley Technologies, a custom contract manufacturing company specializing in Plastic Injection Molding and Tooling, in New York.

"Yes, of course! I think I've accepted that it's a part of life at this point, but just being able to deal with it healthily is important to get over it," said Ben Nordman.

"Oh yeah, you can't please everyone," said Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ, a digital consultancy in New York. "If they have their own biases, who am I to change them? I let them worry about not liking me and making my life miserable, while I worry about closing deals."

"Oh yes, it's inevitable. Especially when you're younger and (unfortunately) not mature enough to handle folks like that. I had to deal with mine in high school. Theatre/drama departments get competitive, pin kid against each other," said Striven.

"Absolutely! I assume almost everyone has but it's about how it's handled that matters. Stay kind, professional, and always treat people the way you want to be treated," said NJMEP.

"I had a roommate that I knew didn't like me. Drove me crazy because I never know what I did that set him off bc I was always conscience to be a thoughtful roommate," said Artus.

"Yes. I know for a fact and a reality that not everyone will like me. I can live with that. At least I know where to put my place. What is insidious are the users," said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing, which creates and implements data-driven social media strategies for B2B companies.

"Yep - and I've learned a lot from those folks. ?Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.' You're not living big enough if you're not ruffling a few feathers. Hard as a people person, but I try to take everything in stride," said Meyer.

"Unfortunately, yes and not that long ago, but I am not easy to bully so ?" said Radwell.

"Of course. I worked for a verbally abusive person. So much so I told him to reduce his interaction with my staff and save his rudeness for me!" said Samuels.

"Yes again! But I feel like we could all say yes to this one," said Sue Nordman. "When I was younger, I probably tried my best to win them over. Now, I just go with the flow. Some of us aren't meant to best buds but we can all be kind to each other."

"Yes. Sometimes people will only see one side," said Gail Robertson of GailNOW marketing. "I have learned not everyone will like us. However, I always ask myself am I being honest, compassionate, empathetic, and open-minded. And if I mess up - I own up!"

"Really? There's a person that exists that doesn't like me? I am sure there is but I don't understand why," said Nick Rivers of Obsidian. "I am very likable. So YES - I'm sure someone tried to be a hater."

"I would say I am not the favorite person at certain TV, Phone, & Internet provider HQs these days," said Buglino.

"Unfortunately, there will always be those people. My best advice is to learn something from them. Check out a blog I wrote on how to learn from someone who does not like you."

What is a significant setback in your professional career you overcame? 

"There are just so many. failure after failure in previous businesses. Somehow figured out how to stay afloat," said Gupta.

"Definitely COVID-19. I graduated from college in June of last year and my intended career path (college athletics' communications) was not hiring," said Ben Nordman. "A minor detour led me here and to all you wonderful people, so I cannot complain much in the end!"

"Being the only female in a male-dominated industry when I worked as an operations manager--and having my gender considered a liability--I worked through that by working twice as hard as everyone else successfully--it was not easy," said Radwell.

"This is an easy one. Working in a family business as a family member," said CVT. "Some people, me, think it is important to work harder as a family member. Others do not share that ideal. I hated that with a passion."

"Out of college, I took a job with a state agency. I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was eager to work and push into the world of the web (late '90s). We needed a website, but nobody would do it, so I taught myself to code (and was fired for rocking the boat lol)," said Meyer.

"The last company I worked for was purchased as a money-laundering scheme for a local payday loan magnet. You can see him on Netflix in an episode of ?Dirty Money,'" said Cleveland Deburring.

"I worked for a non-profit for 25 years. It was all I knew how to do. At age 47, I stepped out of that role and totally changed my career path. I had not been in manufacturing until three years ago," said Rivers.

"The latest was merging with another company and almost immediately regretting it. Took a few years to get back up from that," said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative, a creative agency with an edge in manufacturing in New Jersey.

"Being the ?accounting girl' moving into the majority stockholder position of Obsidian was a huge hurdle and one that I continue to battle some days. No one bothered to ask about my background, experience, and product knowledge. Once that was revealed, things changed," said Sue Nordman.

"COVID-19 left me without employment for about a year. I accepted two positions to make up for lost time," said Samuels.

"I had to step away from professional work when my son was born with significant health issues. I was a SAHM for three years and had to basically relearn my job for the next five," said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic, manufacturer of eddy current drives, clutches, brakes, and controls in Wisconsin.

"I quit my 1st job right out of college (after about 90 days) and thought I made the biggest mistake of my life with my degree. Hmm, I can now think of other people that may not like me as part of my A2 of the chat," said Buglino.

"When I applied for this job, I had very little experience in this industry and there have been days where I still feel like three kids in a trench coat, figuring stuff out. But it's also exciting and I was picked for a reason. So that keeps me going," said Striven.

"One of the setbacks I can remember most is losing a very large sale that my team spent months on along with loads of work, only to lose it to a competitor who ?stole it,'" said Austin.

Changing and Developing

Have you ever done something just for yourself to prove you can do it?

"I quit smoking," said Cleveland Deburring.

"All the time--I am all about trying new things and forcing myself out of my comfort zone," said Radwell.

"Taught myself how to play a little guitar," said Rivers.

"Yes, I learned typing in the QWERTY style. Before that, I was highly inefficient, and I thought you could learn only as a kid. I learned to type properly very recently," said Gupta.

"I started BizzyWeb to do just that. 22 years later we support 20 families and 30 kids. That's worth it," said Meyer.

"The Taurus in me is screaming. I taught myself to use new video editing software. It was frustrating but I left my old computer at home so that I would be forced to use the new program," said Striven.

"One of my greatest adventures was to hike the Grand Canyon on my own. Here is a blog I wrote about the experience" and pushing myself, said Austin.

Do you think your attitude has anything to do with overcoming obstacles?

"Oh yeah, it does. A lot of soft skills go into overcoming it but attitude is huge," said Ben Nordman. "Getting down about a situation or even blaming others won't ever help, it will just make it worse. Dealing with an obstacle is the only way to get through it."

"Absolutely, as a kid, I had a hard time with this. I hated losing. Now, I have learned, through age, and accept the things I cannot control, figure out a way around, and correct the problem," said CVT.

"Absolutely it does. Something I had to learn though. I could have handled things better in my past if I was not wrapped up in the obstacle to see the light or what I could learn from it. Gene says he is ALWAYS positive and it wears off on others," Shannon Simpson of DuraTech, a global, commercial printer, in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

"Attitude has EVERYTHING to do with how you overcome obstacles. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents, and nothing ever rattled them (that they let me see). Everything is a learning opportunity, and you choose how you respond. I choose to stand up and move forward," said Meyer.

"Yes! I try my best to grow through what I go through. Every event in each of our lives shapes us into who we are at this very moment. Train your brain to find the yes, the positive, the takeaway!" said Sue Nordman.

"?Grow through what you go through.' THE quote of the day!" said DSI/Dynamatic.

"Attitude is everything! I have watched people fail simply because of a bad or self-centered attitude. The sad thing is they were perfectly capable of succeeding," said Rivers.

"In a massive way! Positivity, determination, drive, a positive attitude will always get you farther than embracing pessimism," said NJMEP.

"At points in my life when I have not been on top form, I have failed to achieve my potential. If I change the attitude and ramp-up, everything changes and determination gets me over the line," said Packer.

"It has EVERYTHING to do with it. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. - Charles Swindoll," said Cleveland Deburring."

"I have seen a lot smarter people accomplishing far less because of their attitude. I just like to learn like a kid and work hard even if I may not be the smartest," said Gupta.

"100% Attitude is everything. Had I met my setback with a negative attitude, I wouldn't be where I am today!" said DSI/Dynamatic.

"It's okay to not know everything and feel uncomfortable while learning. I try to tell myself that, not to let that feeling discourage me when I take on new things," said Striven.

"Attitude determines your altitude!" said Samuels.

"Your attitude has EVERYTHING to do with overcoming obstacles--I just did a podcast about this,' said Radwell.

"Without a doubt. Determination, persistence, and positivity make all the difference," said Kiesche.

"I think a great attitude may not help you with every single challenge but it can help you with many," said Austin.

Have you ever received help from friends, associates, or family to overcome a tough challenge?

"All of the above. I was not a marketer and new to Twitter, but a group of you took me in and help. 9,700 followers later, we are still moving forward and trying to be as good as you all are," said CVT.

"Too many times to count. In recent times, my sister has been a huge support for me and many of the fine folks on this chat have been invaluable resources and sources of support, which has been so appreciated," said Radwell.

#USAMfgHour is Thursdays on Twitter.

"Of course! We're all in this together smart leaders/businesses/people know to lean on others to deal with challenges. I try to mentor and help as much as possible ? ?pay it forward' and know when to ask for help," said Meyer.

"We were advised on many steps friends who had walked a mile in our shoes with a family issue. With 12 plus years of hindsight, things have worked out better than we had a right to expect," said Samuels.

"Yes, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by great people that have given me an upper hand to overcome tough challenges," said Lermit Diaz of SCTools.

"Yes, but I hate asking for help so it's also a challenge. There's no shame in not knowing how or the best way to accomplish something. You still get the experience and opportunity to learn by asking for help," said Striven.

"I wouldn't be here without my parents' unending support throughout my entire life. Then there's my husband and my kids and a few others that make up my tribe! I'd like to think I have helped a few along the way too. I'm a giver," said Sue Nordman.

"Yes of course! My family is everything to me and they are my rock through adversity," said Ben Nordman.

"Friends. They have been my go-to. We started to meet regularly (virtual) recently to process some challenges. It helped a lot. No judgment from friends," said Rusine.

"It's my nature to ask for help whenever I face obstacles or challenges, so yes. I've never done it alone," said DSI/Dynamatic.

"Absolutely! I never want to be a burden to anyone (it's a fault) BUT - by allowing others IN to an immediate need, I actually GIVE them to opportunity to get involved or just be kind," Rivers.

"Many people in my lifetime have helped me through both personal and professional challenges," said Austin.

About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @CVTPlastics, @DCSCinc, and @SocialSMktg.