Global Companies, Local Connections

Today we visited the Golden Lady Company, a global hosiery manufacturer headquartered in Castiglione delle Stiviere, Italy. Our tour accounted for every step in the manufacturing process, from raw materials to packaged product ready for distribution. As we progressed through three different manufacturing facilities, as well as the offices of the global headquarters, we were treated with overwhelming hospitality and showered with insights which struck chords on different levels.

Today we learned that Golden Lady is the parent company of Kayser-Roth Corporation, a Greensboro-based hosiery manufacturer and significant participant in the historical context of the textile industry in North Carolina and the piedmont in particular. Since acquiring Kayser-Roth in 1999, Golden Lady has continued to maintain the company’s strong manufacturing presence in the piedmont area with plants in both Burlington and Asheboro (there is also a plant in Lumberton). The Golden Lady company employs upwards of 2000 people in the United States in conjunction with these manufacturing operations. Furthermore, as a result, the company makes more money in the United States than it does in Italy. In absorbing these facts and hearing about the North Carolina operations, two observations stuck out in my mind: first, being from North Carolina, and having gotten used to hearing about the demise of our state’s once-great textile industry, I was pleasantly surprised by the sense of optimism and commitment with which the people of Golden Lady spoke of their United States operations. Second, I was struck by the contrast between yesterday’s visit to GE Oil and Gas and hearing about their acquisition and corporate integration of the local Pignone manufacturing plant in Florence, and hearing about Golden Lady’s approach to the acquisition and integration (or lack thereof) of the local Kayser-Roth company.

After today, what is more clear than ever, at least as far as corporate culture and approaches to operational strategy are concerned, is that different perspectives should be sought and embraced. Whether new perspectives provide for a process of elimination, or the right solution comes along, they always facilitate progress. With the state of the textile industry in North Carolina, for Golden Lady to maintain the performance that it has with Kayser-Roth is indicative that perhaps all is not lost for textile operations in our state. After all, Kayser-Roth isn’t Golden Lady’s only North Carolina connections, as it also purchased a failing plant in Italy from Sarah Lee-Hanes, a Winston-Salem textile company, and turned its operations around. By my observation, it seemed that the difference between Golden Lady and GE with regard to the acquisition and operation of foreign manufacturing is that where GE seemed to devote some concern to integration and meshing into the GE brand, Golden Lady seemed to see an opportunity to for Kayser-Roth to have success but as its own brand under the direction of Golden Lady, and maybe not necessarily as the Golden Lady brand.

The opportunity to see firsthand and hear about the different perspectives and approaches to strategic decision making help to understand that there is not a single formula for success in international business and because of that it is important to be observant and ensure an understanding of all relevant possibilities before discounting a particular approach.

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