Attitude is key: FUSION OEM Founder Craig Zoberis
Craig Zoberis was honored in May 2019 by Marquette University’s Opus College of Engineering with their “Entrepreneurial Award” for 2019. The following profile was first published in 2016:
By Fran Eaton –
Heading up a first generation, 13-year old manufacturing company takes a lot of energy, ingenuity and confidence. Fusion OEM’s CEO and founder Craig Zoberis exudes them all.
Zoberis, 46, started Fusion OEM in his garage, and a little over a decade later, he’s shooting for $14 million in annual sales. It’s a part of the “Painted Picture” he’s posted throughout Fusion OEM’s buildings in Burr Ridge, Illinois, to remind employees and visitors that his company is focused on success.
“We are successful because of our culture, lean processes, ISO registration and our ability to add new OEM clients with ease. We are a financially stable company with a diverse set of clients from multiple industries,” Zoberis says.
Embrace change for long term success
Things are moving quickly in technology and manufacturing these days, and the trick is to not shy away from, but embrace, the changes, he says.
“You have to keep a pulse on technology, what the needs are in the marketplace – constantly,” Zoberis emphasizes. “It’s not so much how you apply technology, but how you adapt your offering to complement that new technology.”
Zoberis’ drive for flexibility has brought in sales and orders, and after that, he says, it’s the workplace culture that pushes companies like Fusion OEM to higher levels.
“The key thing for us is hiring the best people. If I have the best people, they’ll adapt to whatever is needed,” he said.
That system, while sounding somewhat idealistic, has reaped rewards for Zoberis and his team of 70 employees.
In both 2013 and 2014, Fusion OEM was picked to be among “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work.” They were also added to the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame in 2013 after they were named among the 500 fastest growing companies in 2009.
Zoberis says he owes much of his success in finding the best people through the colleague network he’s developed over the years.
“We’ve found that the best people out there are working,” he said. “The question is, would we offer a better culture for them? Would our work be a better fit for them?”
Right attitude is key
But it’s not that easy for a person to get on board at Fusion OEM. Attitude matters, too.
“Our challenge is looking for people with the right attitude that can work our core values,” he said. “We have a lot of applicants. We look at three out of 100 and will hire one out of 100.”
But from the first day of working at Fusion OEM, it’s clear the workplace is different. New employees are welcomed with a party on their first day.
A key part of the Fusion OEM day begins at 8:07 am, when Fusion OEM conducts a company wide 5 to 7 minute huddle. During the morning huddle, the company shares great news and updates the team members on the status of their projects. They also learn about any bottlenecks and other new business developments in the company.
“It’s a chance for the employees to hear how the company’s doing and what others are doing,” Zoberis said during a tour of the building. “It’s important that we communicate with each other.”
Fusion OEM started with one product – a sheet feeder – in 2002. Today, it manufactures products for the printing, packaging, medical and food service industries. Fusion has also developed custom machines for clients ranging from the automotive to the electronics industries.
Encourage others and be grateful
CEO Zoberis is actively involved in mentoring other entrepreneurs starting companies, and says he enjoys encouraging others.
“Sometimes all an employee needs is a pat on the back,” Zoberis said. “They’re always interested in how they can do what they do better, how they can expand and feel more alive, not just make more money.”
And over the years, Zoberis says, that he’s learned the value of being grateful.
“I write five thank you notes every Friday – handwritten notes with stamps,” he says. “Doing that every week makes me focus on the good things that are happening.”
Fusion OEM is located at 6951 High Grove Boulevard in Burr Ridge, Illinois or on the web at www.FusionOEM.com .
First published in an online “People You Should Know” series by Technology & Manufacturing Association in 2016.