Frank Marangell, president and CEO of Rize Inc., has been in the 3-D printing industry for about 10 years, but he’s been a builder of businesses for at least twice as long. He took a time-out recently to talk with IndustryWeek about what it takes to launch and grow a manufacturing business.
His secret? People—and the leadership and management style that he’s found helps attract, retain, and motivate employees to deliver an above-and-beyond performance.
But first, a little about Marangell.He’s not a manufacturing executive, per se, Marangell said, noting that
Rize is “an engineering house, creating technology,” that contracts out production. An MBA with an industrial engineering degree and a taste of running a factory back when he was a coop student, he always knew he’d gravitate away from engineering toward running a business.
“I’m way to ADD to sit and design something,” he noted.
Instead, Marangell’s career has centered on bringin innovative technology products from other countries to the U.S., and growing the business here.
For example, before joining with the founders of the company that would become Rize Inc., he launched the North American subsidiary of Objet Inc. in his home. From there, he led the business to a successful IPO in 2011 and then a merger with 3-D printer Stratasys in 2012.
“The product was already designed, that wasn’t what I was working on,” he noted. Instead, his role was to grow the business: “sales, support, marketing, and the infrastructure behind it to support you--operations and finance teams--all in the effort to gain and maintain satisfied customers.”
“That’s the spot we’re in right now [at Rize], where we’re going to start growing the team, finding more customers and maintaining their satisfaction through innovation, development and customer support.” He said the company would begin shipping in March.
Marangell joined Rise a bit earlier in the process than with Objet—a few years before it was funded in October 2014. The IP captured his imagination, he said, explaining, “The six current technologies—the main technologies—in plastic 3-D printing all have some good benefits, but they have some major flaws as [compared] to an injection-molded or milled part that could be used as an end-use part.”
“Whether it [is] strength, surface finish, geometric accuracy, color, feature details, you can’t get a plastic part today that looks like an injection-molded part in all of that criteria.”
The Rize technology takes on that challenge. Its first product, the Rize One, is designed to make an injected-molded quality part, on demand, from a desktop.
It Starts with an Entrepreneurial Spirit
Marangell seems to thrive in the small-team start-up ethos and hires and leads accordingly. Indeed, the reason he says he left Stratasys, once it had acquired Objet, was that the corporate role he had there—running the global materials business—“wasn’t as interesting as having a team, a territory, a group that reported to me and that together we were making great business.”
“We work much too long to not have our fingerprints on what we’re doing matter in the business that we’re working in,” he insisted.
He described the entrepreneurial team as one in which everyone pitches in where needed—and, most important, where the leader sets the example. Rize’s Friday BBQ demonstrates his point.
“We have Friday barbeques where everybody pitches in. I have one guy who is an ex-chef [now a mechanical engineer], so he’s the guy that does the grill, but everybody else pitches in,” Marangell explained. “Somebody sets out the plates and somebody does the dishes. It’s not the same person every week, but it’s a real team effort.” The tradition, he said, evolved from when he’d go shopping on Fridays to buy drinks and snacks for the office, and began buying roasted chicken for that day’s lunch.
His leadership of the Objet team offers another example. Launched in his own home, everyone on the small team was expected to pitch in when something needed to be done, whether it was shoveling snow from the driveways and walks or taking out the trash. “That’s what start-ups are all about,” he added.
“For one guy, this was beneath him,” Marangell said. “He’s the wrong guy for a start-up.”
Finally, Marangell noted, his leading by example shows up in meetings: “Where I sit in a conference room. I try to sit in the middle of the table and it promotes a full team approach.”
His advice for creating such a culture: “Put in the long hours, so that people see that you’re there with them. Jump in and do the dishes on barbeque days,” he said. “Don’t separate yourself from the team, joke around with them—and don’t keep yourself outside from any kind of teasing—within a certain respectful level.”
The Power of Ownership
A second element of Marangell’s leadership and management approach is in allowing the staff to take ownership of their piece of the business. “My job is to help you do your job your job better, as your manager, not to dictate how you do your job,” Marangell said.
“A lot of times, there’s not one way to do it, so if I’m not certain that there’s a danger to what you’re doing, but I might have done it differently… do it. Do it your way,” he explained. “If both [approaches] gets us to the same place, and you’re just getting to it via a different path. Do it. It’s better for us that you feel you own it and you’re doing it your way. You’re more motivated that way.”
For a leader to encourage such ownership among the staff requires a particular approach, Marangell said. “In today’s marketplace, you need to have confidence, but not be egotistical.” He noted that a colleague and he had coined an analysis that they felt described this quality in Marangell. They decided he was “very open-minded, but a little thick-headed.”
This characteristic melds with his leadership style, as he expects the same degree of ownership—and at least a similar degree of confidence--in direct reports and other staffers.
“I’m open to anything, open-minded, but you just have to convince me,” he said, adding that, like most people, he often returns to what’s worked for him before, rather than trying something different. He includes himself when he notes that change doesn’t come easily for most people. “But the world doesn’t always work in the same way, so you have to open-minded. You have to change.”
Still, he doesn’t run the company as a democracy. “Everybody should have a say even if at the end I make the decision. Everybody’s opinion should matter and everybody should feel they own their piece of the business.”
“The best employees run their own business,” Marangell asserted. “People go above and beyond if it’s their business. So every person in the organization should feel they own something; they’re not just an employee.”
Indeed, he attributes this approach to helping attract “the best people from our past lives.”
“We were able to steal them from other companies because of that kind of management style that I and the other leaders in the organization have,” Marangell said.
Taking Care of Employees
Another element crucial to attaining the entrepreneurial mindset is that when he hires someone, he does so with the belief that he’s employing the entire family. “When you take on a responsibility of an employee, you have some responsibilities for the family,” Marangell said. To that end, he tries to offer the best benefits that he can, unlimited vacation and, well, free food at the office.
He says offering the best healthcare helps reduce frustrations of unexpected out-of-pocket costs or difficulties keeping your physician, which, in turn—and somewhat selfishly, he acknowledges--helps staffers focus on work rather than worrying about such things.
Unlimited vacations, he adds, demonstrates that you view the staffers as professionals. Besides, he noted, “everybody knows that you’re doing your job or not doing your job.”
And then there's the free food, which Marangell says, is among the best ways to bring a team together. “There’s nothing cheaper and better and more enjoyable in an organization than food,” Marangell asserted. “All the Silicon Valley start-ups are doing it; it’s not like I made it up. People love some free food.
He believes that’s why the Friday barbeque have become so integral to the company. “At some point, it became a real tradition, so we invited guests," Marangell said. "It’s a great opportunity for people to meet. We have a lot of fun. It evolved into a great tradition and great team-building event."
What to Avoid
In addition to “minor addiction" to motivational tapes early in his career, Marangell credits the evolution of his leadership style to seeing what not to do. “I have to say I think I learned a lot from leaders who were more dictatorial--the do-it because-I-said-so, not because you think it’s the right way to do it, or I convinced you that’s the right way to do it. That always just felt wrong,” he said.
“The other thing that I always felt was wrong is performance appraisals and performance reviews,” he continued. “How many people leave performance reviews feeling motivated to do a better job? I think it’s rare. So we don’t have performance reviews. Every day should be a performance review, not every January because you want to get your 3% raise, and I want 4% instead of 2%, because the average is 3%.”
Again, Marangell reiterated how his leadership and management style works:“You keep employees happy and have them running their business, and they’ll surprise you. They’ll outperform more than you can tell them what to do.”