Bien Dinh, second from left, rear, poses with his former GWL coworkers. Seated are GWL founder George W. Longwell and his wife, Carol.
Earlier this week, the Electro Soft team celebrated the retirement of PCB Assembler Bien Dinh, a 17-year employee of GWL Technologies. Bien worked with us since 2017, when we acquired GWL. But we didn’t learn this dedicated employee’s incredible story until recently.
Bien Dinh poses at his Electro Soft Inc. workbench. We recently learned he was a POW during the Vietnam War.
Bien had been a member of the Vietnamese police force for nine years when, during the Vietnam War, he was captured by North Vietnamese forces and imprisoned. He spent five years as a POW, allowed to eat just one bowl of rice per day. Shortly after his release, Bien was captured again and spent another five months in captivity.
Thanks to a political asylum program, Bien and his family were able to relocate from their native country to the United States. They moved first to Arizona, where Bien’s sponsor resided. Later they moved to Texas, before finally settling in Pennsylvania. Since living here, he has returned to Vietnam four times to visit his parents.
Two years ago, Bien became a United States citizen.
This holiday season, we are thankful to Bien for his quiet and brave spirit. In the short time he’s been a member of the Electro Soft family, he has been a dedicated and hardworking individual. Always kind and focused on the job at hand, Bien carried with him an incredible story that very few people even knew about.
We at Electro Soft wish Bien and his family a wonderful and joyous holiday season, and a very happy retirement.
Electro Soft Inc. is proud to have been among the 98 family-owned businesses honored by The Philadelphia Business Journal during its inaugural Family-Owned Business Conference on Oct. 4.
EVP Karla Trotman accepted Electro Soft’s Award at the PBJ Family-Owned Business Conference.
In a September email announcing the honor, Business Journal Market President and Publisher William Smith called Electro Soft “part of that major economic engine” that is family business. “We’re thrilled that you will be included in the Largest Family-Owned Businesses list,” he wrote. “The economies of the United States and our region would come to a screeching halt without family business.”
The conference included panel discussions and interviews packed with tips.
During an interview with Bill Mignucci Jr., CEO of Di Bruno Bros., Mignucci said you need to be “respected first, liked second” when working in the family business. Respect is
important, he said, because you may need to someday fire a family member — like he did.
Mignucci said one of the things the family created is a 1-page Family Constitution that lays out expectations. Its purpose, he said, is to let family members understand that they will be “held to a higher standard” — and it includes an organizational/accountability chart. Di Bruno Bros. also has a Brand Book that “describes the DNA” of their business, he said.
Other speakers included Bill Yoh, owner of Day & Zimmerman and Chairman of Yoh; Benny Brownstein, founder of the Brownstein Group; Jim Wood, Executive Director of the Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship; and many more.
Panel members included Adam Levine, Partner, Joseph Levine and Sons; E.F. Bud Hansen III, CEO, Normandy Farm; Amada DeCiello, Partner, Private Client Services Group Cozen O’Conner; and Christin Cardone-McClave, Chief People Officer, Cardone Industries.
Electro Soft Executive Vice President Karla Trotman poses with columnist, entrepreneur and Boss Life author Paul Downs.
As a lifelong learner, I’m always hungry to devour knowledge in its many forms. Years ago, I used to read the NYTimes.com Small Business blog featuring a man by the name of Paul Downs. I didn’t look into the details of his business. I just knew that he was a woodworking craftsman who would detail life as an entrepreneur, but from a completely honest perspective.
Years later, his book, Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business, popped up on a book summary and I was reminded of him. I read the book and became completely enamored with, again, his level of honesty. From his special-needs son to his cashflow issues, there was nothing taboo. That is what differentiated his book from others. He was willing to really dig into the ugly side of business ownership, something that other entrepreneurs steer clear of.
After reading that book, I had to know what happened in the end. So I went online to reach out … only to find that his company was in Bridgeport, PA, eleven miles from our offices here at Electro Soft. I sent Paul an email. He responded right away and even invited me to come to his facility to meet some of the people in the book.
Both Paul and I had to reschedule, but we finally made the time to meet. I drove out to his company. It was housed in an old brick building, subdivided into workspaces. There was an old-fashioned freight elevator with an operator who gave me a ride up to the 4th floor, where Paul Downs Cabinetmakers occupies an entire floor.
With no front desk or sign to guide me, I randomly wandered through the office until I found someone to direct me to Paul. Immediately, he invited me on a tour to meet his staff and to see firsthand the workshop that I had caught a glimpse of from pictures throughout the book.
As I was introduced to everyone, I noticed a few changes from the book. First, he had since hired someone to handle all online collateral, which I thought was brilliant. The internet draws most of his traffic and Google won’t crawl a stale website, so fresh content is a must.
Second, the names of the people he referenced in the book were definitely changed to protect the innocent. But there they were — sitting in the office with the sliding glass door, which is referenced in the text.
The workshop was huge. It had exposed brick, and hardwood floors and everything was coated with the sweet smell of freshly cut wood. Paul explained some of his techniques, and the reason he uses veneers: solid wood expands and contracts, so the veneers make for a better product. He showed me incredibly detailed and well-crafted projects that were designed for some of the world’s top businesses.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne
After the tour, we went back to his office. We chatted candidly about our businesses and shared our issues and goals. I asked him detailed questions about Google Ads, which he still uses, only with a drastically reduced budget. I asked him about the CEO peer group Vistage — he is still a member and offered to connect me with the leader. I asked him about his family — everyone is doing well.
He spent the rest of our time giving me a “behind the kimono” view of his business. It was an incredible display of camaraderie; a recognition of how lonely and difficult life can be in small business. But I can also say that this camaraderie is the magic of small business. Paul Downs hears from people from all over the world who have read his book — and he takes the time to speak and connect with each and every person.
That’s because he understands what it’s like to be a small-business owner. His journey to transform his struggling business into a viable entity, and his message of hope, resonate with so many people who dream of success.
If you’re a small-business owner, you should take the time to reach out to other small-business owners, too. Network with them; find out what they’ve learned, and share your own knowledge and challenges. Even if you’re both in completely different types of business — like carpentry and electronics contract manufacturing — one of you might have a solution to help the other. At the very least, you can commiserate over your struggles.
Because in the end, we learn more from each other than we’d ever learn on our own. And by forging these types of reciprocal relationships, we can ensure that as our businesses grow, so do we.
It’s almost time for Manufacturing Day 2018, and we hope you’ll join us on Friday, Oct. 5th as we open up Electro Soft’s doors to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.
We’ll be hosting three tours throughout the day: 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each tour will be the same, is open to adults and students alike, and we’ll be covering the following topics:
- What is electronics contract manufacturing?
- What role does electrical engineering play in the business?
- How we can build ANY benchtop electronics product to provided specifications.
- How you can be successful working in small business.
This is the sixth-annual manufacturing day, which aims to show “students, parents, educators and their communities what is really happening in modern manufacturing.” Manufacturing Day was founded in 2012 to address a growing problem: Although Americans recognize the importance of the manufacturing industry, they don’t have a positive impression of current manufacturing jobs.
Furthermore, many Americans think electronics manufacturing is done only overseas — a perception we want to change, since we’re doing cutting-edge manufacturing work right outside Philadelphia! For example, we’re:
Keeping our manufacturing jobs here in the U.S. is all the more reason to buy American the next time you’re considering a product. And speaking of jobs, did you know that a recent Deloitte survey found that one-third of Americans wouldn’t encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career because they had concerns about job security, a weak career path, and poor pay?
Yet the facts prove otherwise. Statistics show:
- The average tenure of workers in the manufacturing industry is highest among all private sector industries at 9.1 years. The industry also has one of the lowest employee turnover rates (2.3 percent) among all private-sector jobs. (At Electro Soft, the majority of our team members have been with us for a decade or more!)
- Modern manufacturing jobs require sophisticated technical and problem-solving skills. As many senior-level Baby Boomers retire, more job openings are appearing for highly skilled, high-tech positions, as well as in leadership positions.
- The average manufacturing worker in the U.S. earns almost more than $20,000 above the average employee working in other industries. The path to success isn’t limited to those with a high-priced college degree!
“We’re always excited for Manufacturing Day,” says Electro Soft Executive Vice President Karla Trotman. “It’s our opportunity to show our neighbors what we do in their backyards, and our chance to show students from area schools that they don’t necessarily have to learn how to code or pursue a PhD in order to have a rewarding career.”
Last year, an estimated 225,000 students attended Manufacturing Day events across America. Here at Electro Soft, we hosted more than 50 people and had to add a fourth tour to accommodate everyone. We’re hoping to surpass that this year.
For more information on the tour, contact Electro Soft Executive Vice President Karla Trotman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-654-0701.
To register, go to the Manufacturing Day registration page and complete the form. Be sure to indicate which time slot you’d like to attend.
If you can’t make it, don’t worry — we’ll be happy to send you a free 3D viewer so that you can take a virtual, immersive tour of our facility. Just fill out the form at this link.
Hope to see you next Friday!
Electro Soft Inc. Founder and CEO James Wallace on the production floor.
It’s official: Electro Soft Inc. has been named to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s list of the Largest Family-Owned Businesses in Greater Philadelphia!
In an emailed announcement to Electro Soft, Business Journal Market President and Publisher William Smith pointed out that “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, family-owned companies account for 64 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, generate 62 percent of the country’s employment, and account for 78 percent of all new job creation.”
“The economies of the United States and our region would come to a screeching halt without family business,” Smith wrote. “Your business is part of that major economic engine, and we’re thrilled that you will be included in the Largest Family-Owned Businesses list.”
We’re thrilled as well — Electro Soft has come a long way from its humble beginnings. President and founder James Wallace first opened the company’s doors in 1986. … Though more accurately, he opened the doors to his own house. “I started making a few cables on my kitchen table for a former client’s project after being laid off,” he says. “That one-time job turned into several. Before long we moved from my kitchen table to my garage.”
From there, the company moved to its current location: 113 Keystone Drive, Montgomeryville, PA. We’ve been growing ever since. Just last year Electro Soft acquired GWL Technologies, a Doylestown-based electronics contract manufacturer that made a name for itself in the medical device industry. Karla Trotman, Electro Soft’s executive vice president, says the company has grown so much they need an even bigger facility. “We are bursting at the seams and have rearranged our layout to make do until we can solidify a new location.”
“We’re honored to be named to the Business Journal’s prestigious list,” Trotman says. “We’ve all worked hard to help this company grow, and we’re very proud of our history.”
On Oct. 4th, Electro Soft will be publicly recognized during a Family Business Conference at the Crystal Tea Room in Center City’s Wanamaker Building. The Philadelphia Area’s Largest Family Owned Businesses list will be published in the Oct. 5th edition of the Business Journal. It will also be added to the Journal’s Book of Lists.