How a pandemic pivot is shaping the future of GMi

By Sarah Dieckman, Marketing Communications Manager, Goering Center for Family and Private Business

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, GMi Companies did not make Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). When their traditional business dropped by 50%, their company quickly developed new families of products that would enable other businesses to reopen their doors to the public and allow employers to bring employees safely back to the office.

GMi team members across their Lebanon and Greenfield facilities worked together to develop new products and place them on the market. With determination and ingenuity, they created two versions of a Sneeze Guard – in record time and using existing materials. After hearing more about their customers’ needs, they built an entire line of PPE, selling thousands of products and leading to GMi’s best year in history.

“Pivoting to these new products saved us. Employees were happy we were not closing or reducing headcount,” shared G. Mark Leasure, CEO. “Customers wanted PPE and products to provide space division. We had answers. It felt like we were answering the country’s call.”

Continuing operations, with some employees in the office and many team members working remotely, created a range of challenges – challenges the GMi team was determined to meet. For those on-site, all-employee meetings were held each week in the middle of the production floor; each meeting was an opportunity to share stories and information about CDC guidelines, company protocols, and the significant impact that their own PPE products would have within their business community. To keep employees connected and informed, GMi hosted a Pandemic WebEx and Healthworks Q&A – empowering their staff with relevant information and providing platforms for sharing their stories.

“Early on, we recognized clear, transparent communication would be the primary way to help our team feel more secure, provide a sense of normalcy, improve morale, and send the message that we were all in this together,” shared Leasure. The GMi team adopted a variety of communication methods: town hall Q&As, small huddles, newsletters, digital rollouts of new procedures, webinars, and facility modifications to enable collaboration.

Leaning into automation, investing in technology, and developing new products transformed GMi into a better, stronger company. Cross-training was essential to build and ship out their new products – especially to complete orders that were ten times larger than any in their company’s history. In 2020, their team recorded record sales, profitability, hiring, product development, production, and shipping; planned, broke ground, and have nearly completed an additional 40% building expansion; and transitioned ownership from Gen 1 to Gen 2 – all while keeping their team safe.

“When we look back, the business results will not be what matter the most. It is the confidence we built and connections we made with our employees, sales partners, and customers. Our conduct, performance, rapid product development, and resulting reputation will provide value for years to come.”

Featured image: G. Mark Leasure (CEO) of GMi Companies

The Goering Center is sharing this content as part of its 2021 Family and Private Business Awards celebration.

About GMi Companies
Founded in 1976 by George and Mary Alice Leasure, GMi is a family-owned manufacturer with a purpose in service; service to their customers, employees, and community. They are a family of brands – Ghent, Waddell, and VividBoard – that provide blended solutions in visual communication products, space division, and display solutions to corporate, education, government, and healthcare markets. GMi provides a variety of products, assembled by hand and made in the USA, to inspire communication, collaboration, and learning.

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.