2015 Powered by Women
With women-owned businesses in Michigan continuing to increase in number, we asked our readers to nominate female business leaders in the region who are driving profits, adding employees, and opening new opportunities.
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Christie Wong Barrett
CEO | MacArthur Corp., Grand Blanc
Employees: 50 | Revenue: NA
Christie Wong Barrett is big believer in family-owned businesses, especially from a longevity model. In her case, the company — MacArthur Corp. — is a Grand Blanc-based producer of labels, tags, and die-cut components largely for the automotive industry.
“I think the heyday of the family business is coming back,” Wong Barrett says. “Of about 270,000 small and medium-size manufacturers in the U.S., many are family-owned.”
Wong Barrett, who is CEO of MacArthur, married into the family that owns the company when she married Tom Barrett, who is now the company president. The two met while both were pursuing their MBAs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago.
Tom Barrett’s father, who owned a majority interest in MacArthur, purchased the company from founder Jack MacArthur, a former General Motors Corp. engineer. Wong Barrett joined the company almost four years ago.
One of her first tasks was to develop and implement a sustainable growth plan. After analyzing new market opportunities, she assessed the enterprise’s capabilities and determined what its customers wanted.
“If I look at the plan we wrote three years ago, many of those (goals) are unfolding,” Wong Barrett says. “We deepened support of our customers by developing relationships at many levels and functions, expanded our global footprint (to 22 countries), and when a customer in North America wanted our services for its location in China, it led to a joint venture.”
In addition to serving markets in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the company has customers throughout Europe and Asia. It hasn’t stopped searching for ways to expand its market, although not necessarily geographically.
In 2014, Wong Barrett and her husband worked with the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, a joint program of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and its engineering college, to develop a plan for MacArthur to integrate advanced manufacturing related to flexible electronics into its business.
Hoping to help other businesses, Wong Barrett shared the successful process MacArthur and Tauber developed with both state and federal government leaders.
“I strongly (believe) there’s an opportunity for mid-sized companies to grow using the methodology we developed,” she says.
Wong Barret is something of an old hand when it comes to developing a company’s strategy for new growth.
During her first job out of business school, in the Detroit and London offices of McKinsey & Co., she grew one of the firm’s nascent services, and helped its largely Fortune 50 clients improve their R&D activities. The effort paid off. As a result of Wong Barrett’s efforts, the company tripled the size of that client service by revenue at its locations in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Wong Barrett says the experience expanded her leadership know-how and gave her an opportunity to hone her entrepreneurial skills as an in-house entrepreneur, or “intrepreneur.”
Today, she applies her knowledge and skills as an innovator on a number of advisory boards, including President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee. Last year, she and other business leaders met with Obama at the White House, where they presented their recommendations to help move American manufacturing forward. During the meeting, held in the Roosevelt Room, the administration also shared its ideas.
She’s also on advisory boards for the Tauber Institute, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council, and the FlexTech Alliance Industrial Board for Flexible Hybrid Electronics (in San Jose, Calif.).
“It’s a big passion of mine,” she says of serving as an adviser to industry and government. “It will help my country, it will help my region, and it will help my company in the long run. — Ilene Wolff