Stranded At Sea

Guest article by Gustav Widmayer

Let’s face it, when the winds die down, no company has any business braving the high seas. So, what should you do when bookings are scarce, billings are down, and backlogs are depleted? This captain is scouring his ship from stem to stern.

I have taken my company, OX3 Corporation, through half a dozen downturns since 1980. I’ve learned that the key to success is to batten down the hatches and wait for the good winds. The current recession in the semiconductor sector is being called the worst in thirty years. Orders didn’t drop — they stopped. Things have gotten so bad so quickly that layoffs, rollbacks, reductions and write-offs have been swift and deep.

In the business of protecting semiconductors during handling and transport, a company has to be registered by an international quality standards board in order to demonstrate its ability to meet strict customer requirements. As sales dropped, my managers devoted hundreds of hours to writing and re-writing work instructions, procedures and manuals, activities that are the backbone of any ISO system for maintaining quality control. On August 1st of this year, OX3 received ISO9001-2000 certification.

Instead of sitting around wondering when our next order is going to come in, my staff and I are busy developing plans for a new facility. We are on schedule to break ground on November 1 of this year. Experiencing down time is also giving us the ability to more thoroughly train our staff. My managers now have the time to review tasks and work instructions, analyze trends and sharpen their skills.

My brother-in-law, a church deacon, reminds me of precedence in the Bible at Ecclesiastes 3:1-7: “there is an appointed time for everything: “A time to plant, and a time to sow . . .A time to tear down, and a time to build up . . .A time to be silent and a time to speak.” During the past quarter, I had the unenviable job of letting workers go and rolling back the hours and salaries of those who remain. At the same time, I’ve had to talk about shared values and the importance of hard work and ingenuity. Strangely, I seem to be succeeding. My message of sharing sacrifice has been accepted by my staff.

Each month I participate in a roundtable discussion with a group of other entrepreneurs owning tech companies with revenues of at least $1 million. At one of our recent gatherings, I suggested that I would not be asking every available employee to grab an oar and row after new customers. Not all agreed, but most found the argument to be sound. I believe that the course I have taken will make my company stronger when the current recession in the high-tech sector ends. When it does, and it will, my ship will be lean, clean and ready to sail past the competition.

Our guest, Gus Widmayer, is native to Boston, Massachusetts. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he manages Orion Park, in Ayer, Massachusetts, ( and owns OX3 Corporation ( He is passionate about writing, history and investing and is currently writing books on the history of villages in Falmouth and Boston. He has been a customer of N. P. James since 1995.