Too busy for Godot

March 11, 2008
By: Tim Heston

"Godot has arrived," said Wall Street analyst Edward Yardeni in a New York Times report.

Yardeni's Godot is a recession, something even the upbeat forecaster said had indeed arrived, particularly after Friday's unemployment report from the Labor Department, which said the nation lost about 63,000 jobs in February.

But does this really mean we're in a recession? The Fed has pumped billions into the banking system in an effort to boost liquidity, and a UCLA Anderson report released today said the economy, while weak, isn"t headed toward a recession this year.

One thing"s for sure: Vivek Gupta, managing director at Texas ProFab, isn't waiting for Godot. He's busy managing a company that has 10 times the sales volume it did in 2003. It's also had 50 percent growth every year since 2004. The Carrollton, Texas-based metal fabricator has 40 employees, and so, Gupta concedes, "it's not as challenging to double [in size] than it is for a company with a bigger footprint."

But the growth is impressive all the same. Consider when the company launched. In 2001 and 2002, the firm had four employees and was just starting to get on its feet. Why launch a business during hard economic times? Gupta said it wasn"t intentional but just due to lag time between having an idea and implementing it. During the late 1990s, Gupta's fatherwho ran Image Industries, a metal finishing companywas looking for ways to expand the business. At the time many of his customers also had metal fabrication needs, so he had the idea of launching a sister company to meet those needs.

"It was a reverse vertical integration," Gupta said. "While many fab shops add powder coating and painting, here a powder coater and painter added a fab shop."

The business turned out to be a good idea, despite the economic climate during the launch. Today the metal fabrication business is slightly larger than the finishing company, and Gupta said he predicts the fab shop"s revenue will double within three to five years.

And what about the "r word"--I mean, Godot?

As for Gupta, he's too busy to wait. "Margin levels might face a little bit of a challenge [this year], but we"re in growth mode for the time being. The weak dollar is good for our industry. Our customers are more competitive globally. They now ship everywhere from China to Hungary."

It's safe to say the company did not contribute to the Labor Department's unemployment figures released last week. The business serves a diverse, stable customer base that needs everything from lighting fixtures for entertainment venues to components for ATMs. While not immune to ups and downs, the eclectic mix of industries Texas ProFab serves gives the company a solid financial footing.

Regardless of where the business cycle stood, Gupta's fab shop launch just made good business sense. Sure, the last recession made for a rocky start, but it didn't prevent eventual success. If Gupta, or the countless other successful fab shop managers like him, had a chance to rewrite Samuel Beckett's existential play, Waiting for Godot would be a lot shorterand for good reason. Why wait? It's time to get back to work.
Tim Heston

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-381-1314