In late 1995, a fire at Malden Mills put 3,000 union jobs at risk. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The 90-year-old manufacturer in Lawrence, Mass., has seen its revenues triple and employment double since emerging from bankruptcy in 1982. It’s popular Polartec and Polarfleece fabrics were one reason. A loyal and productive workforce was the other.
In a time when offshore manufacturing became standard procedure in American business, Malden Mills’ CEO Aaron Feuerstein opted to stay put and to rebuild his factory on the very site where his family had made textiles for 90 years.
Client :Insight Studio
Date :20 Feb, 2018
Skills :Project Planning
Challenge & Solution
The fire came just two weeks before Christmas, affecting employees both financially and emotionally. So just 2 days after the blaze, Feuerstein announced plans to pay his employees their full wages for 30 days. He would eventually extend that offer to 90 days for the paychecks, 180 days for benefits. Total cost to Malden Mills: $25 million.
A business fairy tale?
It would seem so. Unfortunately, the case doesn’t end here. Feuerstein found himself back in bankruptcy court, saddled with $140 million in debt, much of it tied to the rebuild. The company hired a new president in 2004 as part of the Chapter 11 reorganization. It wasn’t enough.
Did Aaron Fueurstein do the right thing in 1995?
After his decision, Feuerstein became a legend in both business and PR circles — a textbook case in excellence theory. But in the end, he leveraged the business into bankruptcy. No one will question Feuerstein’s good intentions, but there’s no line on the balance sheet for “loyalty” or “ethics.”
The business of business is messy.
Always has been. But we don’t often talk about the ugly side of it in our PR casebooks. Instead, we select cases that exemplify symmetrical communication, ethics and trust. And we celebrate them.
When students leave my classroom, few will work for principled managers like Aaron Feuerstein, the man they called the “Mensch of Malden Mills.” If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s that Polartec remains a great product with a loyal customer base, including me. None of that may have occurred had Feuerstein not saved the day on Dec. 13, 1995.
Improve sales & operations & production planning
Determine the right inventory level
Optimize the supply chain for perfect order planning
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