Strategic Planning Expands Markets for Rutledge Mold and Tooling Manufacturer

Inventiveness and responsiveness have long been trademarks of the Heusser family business, Versatile Mold and Design. But like many small businesses, this Rutledge mold and tooling manufacturer’s management – led by siblings Bob, Tim, Frank and Suzanne Brown – was so busy working in the successful business that when it began to experience significant growing pains, they found they needed to find a better way to work on the business.

Almost simultaneously, a major customer requested that they develop and implement a five-year strategic business plan, implement more sustainable operational measures and upgrade their human resources policies and procedures.

A new piece of equipment at Versatile Mold & Design in Rutledge, GA. includes the Hurco machining center which has a spidle that will run at 30,000 RPM.
A new piece of equipment at Versatile Mold & Design in Rutledge, GA. includes the Hurco machining center which has a spidle that will run at 30,000 RPM.

“Someone way up the corporate ladder kept demanding I produce a five-year business plan,” says Bob, president of Versatile. “But we are all tool and die makers by trade. No one who works here, nor our accountants, knew how to put a business plan together from start to finish.”

But the company needed the business plan to pass the audit necessary to become a preferred supplier for the customer.

While searching for assistance, the Heussers contacted the Athens office of the University of Georgia SBDC.

“The main reason we chose the SBDC was Carol was so willing to help. She came to us immediately, brought in more SBDC professionals, and the relationship grew from there,” says Bob.

McDonell began with the business plan. “For a company this size and stage in its development, what they really needed to do was strategic planning. I explained what it was and what would be involved. They thought it sounded like a good idea,” she says.

“We got the family together, and I started with the usual strategic considerations: core values, vision, mission and SWOT analysis,” she says. The planning sessions helped Versatile’s management identify the improvements needed to grow the business further and upgrade its employment policies and practices.

“Carol helped us put together our history and plan where we wanted to go, where our clients wanted us to go and plan for new investments,” says Bob. She also had them contact the University of Georgia’s Engineering Outreach Service for an energy audit. “That led us to many improvements in our shop. It’s saving us money and goes along with our Energy, Health and Safety program, so we were able to be rated better.”

Carol brought in human resources expert Michelle Griffin, an SBDC consultant from Columbus, to help the company’s 35 employees improve their understanding of workplace professionalism and labor laws.

“This work helped us to become ISO certified as a preferred molding or molded parts supplier,” says Bob, “and not only an ASA-preferred tooling supplier, which we have been for years.”

It also allowed Versatile to supply parts to customers’ divisions around the globe. “We were not able to ship globally prior to our work with the SBDC. Now we supply to Puerto Rico – where we have a large customer base – the Dominican Republic, Europe and Switzerland,” he says.

McDonell enjoys working with the team at Versatile. “It is very gratifying when they implement recommendations and suggestions and we can see the changes. They are the type of clients with which we feel we can have the most impact.”

“We’re going to continue to use the SBDC and their services,” says Bob. “This relationship has paid off for us tremendously.”