2017 is lining up to be a year to remember here at Star Rapid. With a recent name change from Star Prototype to Star Rapid, we have our eyes set on the future. Jonathan Ross, the CEO of Star, is the man leading the charge for this new era in our history.
“Maintaining a strong company culture and enabling our employees.” Jon is very clear when asked about his main tasks for leading the company as it continues to expand. “When I joined Star back in 2012, running the factory, we were just over 65 people. Today we employ over 200 people in China and around the world and by the third quarter of 2017 we aim to have that number at 270.”
Maintaining the same feel as when the company was at 65 people is impossible, Jon says. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. “Back in those days I would know every single employee by name, which becomes increasingly difficult when you have over 200 people working for you.”
Although company trips, team dinners, games and bonuses are a regular occurrence here at Star, Jon believes it’s not all about giving employees tangible things to motivate them. “You have to understand where an employee is in their life and what matters to them. Some of our employees started working for us straight out of university and what mattered to them was saving money to send back to their families. That same person might now be married and looking to start his or her own family. Their priorities change and we have to make sure we can develop their roles to fit those changes.”
With a major name change from Star Prototype to Star Rapid now complete, Jon wants to usher in a new era in the company history with our biggest investment to date: “We’ve secured funding to keep up with the increasing demand, adding a second floor to our factory and bringing in plastic injection machines, CNC machines and advanced software for USD 2.5 million.”
A good portion of that investment will be investing heavily in advanced software and technology to improve processing and data flow efficiencies. We will also be hiring technical and business consultants in strategic areas in order to ensure we adopt best practices around the business.
Jon’s office is conveniently located just 15 meters from where that expansion will take place – on the second floor of the factory building. Around him you find the beating heart of Star’s operations: finance and accounting, Human Resources, logistics, IT and operations. Entering the office is quite different from many other CEO offices. The company dog, Aika, roams the office and welcomes visitors and colleagues alike with open paws.
Everyone entering the office, Jon included, takes a few seconds to pay Aika their respects before getting on with business. In the middle of the office – since it’s the festive season – stands a Christmas tree. Jon calls some of the staff members over and holds up his phone and proudly shows off a picture of his own Christmas tree: “This is what a Christmas tree should look like. This is what we need here. Only the best.” His passion for the Christmas tree comes off equally well when he explains it in English as well as when he seamlessly switches to Mandarin.
“Speaking Mandarin is not just about learning the words, characters and tones. It’s about learning the body language associated with the conversations and using the right body language and mannerisms at the right time”, Jon explains. His attitude to language learning encapsulates his approach to business. It’s all about finding out the right information and applying it at the right time – whether that’s negotiating for prices with suppliers or purchasing new hardware. Finding the right value, the right offers and using that information to improve the business come as natural as his language abilities.
“My job is also mainly about enabling my managers”, Jon explains. “I need to make sure they have clear goals and the resources and capabilities to carry out their work. I can’t expect them to be successful if I don’t set the right goals and don’t give them the right tools, whether it’s staff, equipment, supplies or training.”
Enabling managers has been a big part of bringing Star to where it is today – at the brink of its largest investment to date. But even with rapid growth, Jon stands fast on not compromising quality for speed. “We’re still investing heavily in our Quality Control (QC) department – growing the team and updating the equipment and software solutions to make them as efficient as possible.”
For the QC department, the investment will mean the purchase of a new spectrophotometer plastics analyzer, a 3D laser scanner and an Optical Gauging product for visual inspection. The investment also relates to a wide array of production machines that will substantially increase the capacity of Star: nine CNC machines, four EDMs and six plastic injection molding machines.
Jon has accumulated a wealth of experience over a decade working in the manufacturing sector and running successful operations in China. He is always open to bringing in new ideas, opening up the floor to anyone with a suggestion and tries to nurture a culture of ideation. He strives to mix the best of all business cultures – regardless of whether the influence comes from his experiences back in the US or his time in China. Now he’s letting all those experiences help him guide Star through these exciting times.