This week we chat with Gabe Elberg, CFO & VP of Operations at Diversitech. He reveals the ins and outs of his job, what he likes best about his work and what he anticipates for the future under Diversitech’s new management.
Q: What are your responsibilities as CFO & VP of Operations at Diversitech?
A: As VP Operations, my main responsibility is to ensure that we are building up our operational capacity to match our sales growth. It’s been a challenge as Diversitech has grown exponentially year over year; we’ve reached a point where we are a little limited by our system capabilities, so we’re thinking outside the box and building out custom in-house software to address those shortcomings.
As the CFO, I need to make sure the overall financial health of the business is sound and ensure that we comply and report to corporate now that we’re owned by a publicly traded company. Monitoring key ratios, KPIs helps keep my finger on the pulse. Budgeting, IT infrastructure, pricing and margin analysis also falls on my plate as well.
Q: How long have you worked at Diversitech?
A: I joined May 2018, and what a ride it’s been!
Q: What changes have you seen in that time, other than the obvious growth?
A: We’ve done some soul searching as a company and found that a lot of our customers love our ability to engineer equipment to their specific needs. Supporting this engineer-to-order environment is significantly more complex and requires a more built out infrastructure, which we’re in the middle of doing.
We’ve gotten smarter and more efficient. We have web forms that push quotes to our engineering manager. We have task management systems and a new database where we handle all our production. We really came together as a team and built out a methodology to address our shortcomings. If we would still be operating the way we used to a year ago, we’d be completely buried. We’ve adopted a very Kaizen approach to our operating model, continuously tweaking and improving at every opportunity we get.
Q: What are the biggest challenges that come with your job?
A: Keeping up with the sales growth from an operational capacity side of things. We’ve far outpaced the capabilities of our core systems. Balancing the build out of the required foundations for a business with multiple complex manufacturing channels, while ensuring we still serve and address our existing orders is a tough act!
Q: How do you overcome them?
A: Teamwork! We’ve consistently come up with big improvements to handle the increased capacity and improve communication and coordination. We’ve built out BI analytics and KPI’s for each department that identify bottlenecks and indicators so they can be addressed as swiftly as possible.
Q: What do you find most rewarding?
A: The satisfaction when we achieve a goal or complete a project as a team, and the amount of employee engagement we have.
By fostering that continuous improvement atmosphere, everyone feels like they can contribute ideas and see them come to fruition. You’d be surprised at the great feedback you can get from your employees. Everyone from our marketing team to our manufacturing team are coming up with great ways to work smarter, faster, safer and better.
When everyone feels like they’re a part of the solution, you’d be amazed how much more engaged they’ll be, and just how valuable their input is.
Q: To what do you attribute Diversitech’s rapid growth in recent years?
A: You have to look at it from the fundamentals here. Bottom line is, thirty-five years ago, Marvin Simms came up with a great solution to improve worker safety with Diversitech products. He took that concept and built it out into the successful company we are today. We are successful, because we believe in our core ideology; that we manufacture great equipment that will increase worker safety and quality of life. With that comes a passion that gets injected to each customer visit or sales call. When you truly believe in your product and its purpose, you’re already a mile ahead of the competition. Mix all that up with our great sales team, and voila!
Q: What kind of changes do you anticipate under the new management?
A: I expect a much bigger platform, where we aren’t just focusing on the North American market. I think we will need to reevaluate what our solutions can do globally - how they fit in with standards from Europe and how we can promote worker safety in that market. I think the synergies we are going to see by combining the product ranges and the knowledge from all the different groups will be quite astounding. I’m confident we’ll be able to develop a lot more complex, smarter, higher quality machines that will work across a wider range of applications.
Q: How do you think the transition will be?
A: That’s up to us. Absolent Groups’ aggressive growth strategy means a diverse group of companies coming together to target air filtration at all levels. While creating a common platform across all these companies might be complex, you also have great people at each of these companies dedicated to making this process as smooth and successful as possible. Even though we’re still in the infancy of this somewhat daunting task, the people I’ve been coordinating with have been great, and we’re all dedicated to getting this done right, so I’m confident things will go well.
Q: Any personal hopes for the future for Diversitech?
A: To have Diversitech make the Great Place to Work list. That’s an objective from corporate, so I’m telling you, it will happen. We want to create an atmosphere where people enjoy coming to work and work well together. A happy, fulfilled and engaged team is the most effective team you could have.
I’m also excited to start working on our new ERP, which will maximize our data collection abilities and automate a lot of processes for us. We’re working our way towards being a well-oiled machine from an operating standpoint, and the ERP is a key part of that. We’ll be able to leverage data to make key decisions across all ends of the organization. I’m a big believer in data driven decision making. The hope is to evolve Diversitech to Industry 4.0 standards, and become industry leaders through leveraging data, technology and a top of the line team.