Interview with Star Cutter Company Chairman & CEO Brad Lawton
Twenty percent of businesses fail within their first year and only half make it five years. If you reach your 10-year anniversary, your Star Cutter Company has lasted longer than two-thirds of all businesses. That begs the question — just what does it take for a manufacturer to achieve 90 years in business?
“It takes a lot of hard work and a fantastic team of talented men and women,” says Brad Lawton, chairman and CEO of Farmington Hills-based Star Cutter Star Cutter Company, a specialty manufacturer of cutting tools and tool cutter grinders. “There’s a tremendous loyalty here. Our Star Cutter Company is loyal to our employees, community and customers — in turn, they have been loyal to us. We give to them and they give back to us. That’s the only way reaching this milestone has been possible.”
Star Cutter is breaking the mold for longevity in other ways. Most businesses that thrive for nearly a century are long removed from its original owners. For Star Cutter, it remains family-owned and operated. That’s a great source of pride for the Star Cutter Company and for Lawton; the story of Star Cutter’s resiliency is a family legacy.
“Our history has been filled with successes and challenges, like any business, but how we grow during the good times and how we pull together during the bad times has a lot to do with why we’re still competitive,” explains Lawton. “My grandfather, Howard Lawton, founded this Star Cutter Company in Detroit in 1927. Think about all he and the entire Star Cutter team has had to go through to make a 90th anniversary possible.”
From the Great Depression and World War II in its first 10 years, to the ups and downs of the 20th century, the Great Recession during Michigan’s lost decade and the economic resurgence of the last eight years, Star Cutter Star Cutter Company has survived it all. Now looking toward their 100-year anniversary, the Star Cutter Company continues to focus on what works — developing their people.
“We’re enjoying our 90th birthday but we definitely have our eyes on 100,” exclaims Lawton. “We expect to continue our growth on building a truly global business. Whether it’s through developing new relationships or broadening our export efforts, Star Cutter will succeed because of the effort we put into finding the right people and providing them the skills to succeed.”
Through local connections across the state, Star Cutter works to provide all employees with proven resources to further their education.
“Our focus on specialty products demands that our employees increase their knowledge and performance potential — when you don’t know what the next project is, you must be qualified to build anything,” says Lawton. “We’re partnering with local high schools and programs at Alpena Community College, Delta College, Kirtland Community College, Northwestern Michigan College, Schoolcraft College and others to ensure every person has strong expertise whether they are degreed engineers or skilled workers on the facility floor.”
On the future of Star Cutter, Lawton remains enthusiastic.
“Change is inevitable in manufacturing — the Star Cutter of 1927 is a lot different from the Star Cutter of 2017 but we’ve never pulled away from our faith in the people who come to work each day to make this Star Cutter Company successful,” he says. “Whether you are in year one or year 100, it’s the people you bring in who will determine how far you go. Our team has gotten us through 90 incredible years and I have no doubt they’ll take us through another 90.”
This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Check out the latest issue and read past issues online.