Randy Rubin | Crain's Charlotte

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Randy Rubin

Background:  

The Crypton Companies, based in Detroit, Mich., specialize in bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. textile industry at an advanced, environmentally friendly research and production plant in Kings Mountain, N.C., just outside of Charlotte. Randy and Craig Rubin – the founders and co-CEOS of Crypton, Crypton Home and Nanotex – were instrumental in creating the performance textiles category nearly 25 years ago.

The Mistake:

Relying too heavily on outsourcing.

My husband and company co-founder, Craig, and I started Crypton in the basement of our house. The first thing we did was create Crypton super-fabric. Craig’s dream was to create a fabric that would replace vinyl – something that was extremely stain- and microbial-resistant. Craig is a textile person, so he handled the design. My background is in marketing and public relations. We put together a great invention and took this from our basement to what is now a global empire.

He started with upholstery in nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants, hotels – any place where there’s a high abuse. Our first customer was McDonald’s. Then we had healthcare customers like Cleveland Clinic. It started spreading really fast.

Then came our one huge strategic mistake. What we were going to do was to invent, patent and brand high-performance textiles. That’s what we do; we invent stuff, we brand it, we market it, we get patents and trademarks. When we first started, we were never going to be a manufacturer. We were going to outsource. We didn’t know the first thing about manufacturing.

We really should have known about manufacturing. We blindly trusted somebody to do something that we didn’t know how to do. He was our single source. We would get late deliveries, we were starting to experience unhappy customers, and then the whole thing spiraled out of control.

Unless we have total control of the product, we don’t make it.

The Lesson:

We decided if we were going to sell this product, we had to control the manufacturing. We had to control all of it. It’s a big mistake to put everything you own on the line and rely on one person to do what you need done. You should have multiple sources. You should have all the secrets in a vault. You should be totally protected.

Now, unless we have total control of the product, we don’t make it. It’s not that I’m completely against outsourcing. I would outsource something as long as I knew what would have to be done if something went wrong. But we were very reliant on someone else. We weren’t skilled in the art of outsourcing and that left us very vulnerable.

We could have lost everything, our house, everything that we built. We had something that was so incredible and we were losing it, day by day by day.

We found this great guy from Guilford Mills, N.C., and we bought an old Sara Lee facility and started moving production there. We had our finishing facility ready to go in 120 days. We own, manage and operate the facility that manufactures any product that we do, and it employs 80 to 100 people, depending on the time of year, in Kings Mountain. 

Follow Randy Rubin on Twitter: @momofmollyb

Pictured: Randy Rubin | Photo courtesy of Crypton Inc. 

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