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Calling the plays at this manufacturing firm

Grant Randall believes running a successful business is not so different from leading a championship football team.
 
"You can’t have all quarterbacks and be a success; you need a mix of people with different talents and abilities to succeed," Randall says. "It’s all about ‘we.’"
 
Randall has used that sports mentality to manage his firm, Rochester-based Windsor Technology Inc.
 
Windsor began in 1975 as Windsor Manufacturing and is now a contract manufacturer of circuit board assemblies, wire harnesses and electro-mechanical products. The company is housed in a 40,000-square-foot facility on Lyell Avenue.
 
The 42-year-old Randall has served as president and CEO since 2005, when he bought the business with two silent partners. Since then, the firm has increased its staff and sales.
 
Windsor employs some 80 workers, up from 50 last year. On average, annual sales have grown 15 percent to 20 percent, and the increase could be bigger in 2012, Randall says.
 
While he runs the business, Randall quickly credits Windsor’s employees for continuing its trend of winning seasons. He often uses sports analogies when discussing his business.
 
"Business is so similar to sports because they are both really about competition," Randall says. "Your goal in both is to practice, take your team to the next level and continue to come up with new plays."
 
Randall grew up in Brighton and attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where he studied business and played on the school’s lacrosse team.
 
During school breaks, Randall began working at Windsor, where he honed his business skills in areas such as purchasing, quality and material management. He acknowledges it was not a typical summer job for a young adult.
 
"It may not have been as fun as the jobs other people my age were doing, but it was a great experience," he says.
 
It also left an impression.
 
Randall continued working for Windsor after he received his bachelor of science degree in business administration from Bowling Green in 1992. He initially focused on the sales side of the business.
 
He believes that sales background helped prepare him for his current role.
 
"This business is sales-driven," he says. "Working in that environment taught me what the market wanted."
 
It also helped that Randall listened to his customers.
 
"The secret (to business success) is real-ly simple: Give customers what they want," he says.

Diversification
Windsor builds assemblies for Fortune 500 companies. They are incorporated into more than 100 different products, including computers and peripheral equipment, automotive equipment, office equipment, telecommunications equipment, measuring devices and medical instrumentation.
 
Windsor products can be found around the world in industrial automation, mass transit, medical, oil refinery, communication and electronic imaging technologies. The diversity helps the business grow, Randall says.
 
Its customers largely are based along the East Coast.
 
In addition to contract electronic manufacturing services, Windsor provides material procurement, test engineering, statistical quality assurance and resource management.
 
Randall sees growth in some markets. A few years ago, the business obtained certification for medical device products, which has increased work in that market, he says. He also sees growth potential in rail transportation, helped by a certification Windsor obtained recently for that industry.
 
Over the past year, the business has added roughly 24 circuit board assemblers along with other positions, including director of sales.
 
It has been investing heavily in new equipment, spending more than $1 million over the past couple of years, and will continue to upgrade to remain competitive, Randall said. The firm has added capabilities, such as a clean room, based on customer requests.
 
The best part of the job is the type of work the company gets to do, Randall says.
 
Windsor recently began making equipment that will be used as part of a smart electrical grid in Russia, and the firm has built products used in NASA’s space shuttles. A new job involves supplying products that will give government workers the ability to read encrypted emails on their Apple Inc. iPhones.
 
The most challenging part of the job is dealing with long material lead times while working to ensure that the products get out the door in a timely manner.
 
Randall says customers return because the firm has a successful track record.
 
"We keep trying to do the right thing," he says.
 
Daniel Goldstein, chief financial officer at Buckingham Properties LLC, became friends with Randall when the two were 10 years old and on the same bowling team. They played on the same team again in high school, this time in football, and have remained friends, getting together frequently for family parties or golf outings.
 
The traits that make Randall a strong business leader at Windsor are the same traits that have made him a leader throughout his life, Goldstein says.
 
"Grant is a person who others want to follow and generally be around," Goldstein says. "Grant has always believed in treating people-whether they are his friends, his employees, his customers or his partners-with respect."
 
Goldstein adds that Randall is open-minded, fair and reasonable, and he listens to what people are saying before he forms an opinion.
 
"This allows him to absorb as much knowledge and information as possible before he responds or makes a decision," Goldstein says. "It also makes him a team player, which in turn makes people want to be around him, want to work hard for his company and want to see him succeed."
 
Goldstein also speaks of Randall’s drive, which is evident in all aspects of his life.
 
"Grant is one of the most driven and motivated people I have ever known in regard to his desire to succeed," Goldstein says. "I have never seen him set his mind to accomplishing something and then not seen him excel at it."
 
Goldstein describes the trait as an inner competitive quality.
 
"He simply refuses to fail," Goldstein says.

At the office
Randall begins his day around 9 a.m. after a coffee run to Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery. On display in his office are several pictures of his family, along with a framed poster of a New York Jets vs. New York Giants football game and a bowling trophy the Windsor team won in the late 1990s. It is particularly special because Randall and his grandfather were members of the team.
 
Randall enjoys mornings, he says, because his first tasks include touching base with company employees on a mix of business and personal matters. There is a more formal marketing meeting later in the morning where the group reviews all aspects of ongoing projects. For each job, the problems, issues and opportunities are addressed. It is a way to anticipate difficulties and make sure the jobs stay on track, he says.
 
Randall also keeps a hand in on the sales side, often calling random customers for feedback and updates.
 
"It’s so important to keep in touch with the market," he says.
 
While he often leaves the office around dinner time, Randall is reachable around the clock, and his cellphone number is on his business card.
 
He feels a commitment to his staff, which has become a second family of sorts.
 
"Everyone here works so hard for me and for this company," Randall says. "They deserve the same dedication from me."
 
Randall describes his leadership style as empowering. He lets people do their jobs without micromanaging, but he is there to discuss ideas and offer advice when asked.
 
While he takes a somewhat laid-back approach, Randall does define clear goals and objectives that he expects employees to meet.
 
"We’re not here to be complacent," he says.
 
To help him avoid complacency, Randall says, he hires competent managers who are not afraid to express opinions, even if they differ from his.
 
"I don’t hire a bunch of me’s," Randall says. "Our objective is continuous improvement."
 
Thomas Bonadio, CEO and managing partner of Bonadio & Co. LLP, has known Randall for seven years, since he joined Windsor’s board. He describes Randall as a bright, hard-working CEO who listens and takes advice well, in addition to being a quick study.
 
"He knows how to bring in the right people to help him grow his business," Bonadio says. "He has done a wonderful job making Windsor into a success and continuing to grow the business."
 
Randall says Windsor’s board is a resource, as is the Empire State Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, of which he is a member.
 
Randall also finds inspiration in a mix of people, from area small-business owners to professional athletes. What they have in common, he says, is the ability to see their shortcomings and rise above them.
 
"They address their challenges and move forward," he says.
 
When not working, Randall spends nearly all of his time focused on family. He lives in Victor with his wife, Brenda, daughter Casey, 14 and son Griffin, 12.
 
He often attends his children’s sporting events on nights and weekends and coaches his son’s lacrosse team.
 
Randall also is a New York Jets fan, likes attending Syracuse University basketball games when possible and takes an annual family camping trip to the Adirondacks for kayaking and swimming.
 
Professionally, Randall says the firm is looking to make an acquisition. Candidates could be another company similar to Windsor that could be moved into its facility and help grow the business.
 
He also plans to continue calling the company’s plays.
 
"I’m happy to be here," Randall says. "I don’t ever want to leave this team."

Grant Randall
Position: President and CEO, Windsor Technology Inc.
Age: 42
Education: B.S. in business administration, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1992
Family: Wife Brenda; daughter Casey, 14; son Griffin, 12
Residence: Victor
Activities: Spending time with family, coaching lacrosse, watching the New York Jets, camping
Quote: "Business is so similar to sports because they are both really about competition. Your goal in both is to practice, take your team to the next level and continue to come up with new plays."

2/10/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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