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CPI and Bent Metal

There should be more companies like Chatsworth Products Inc. or CPI for short. The firm's employees have been calling the shots since a 1991 buyout from a Fortune 500 company and it shows.


March 1, 2011  


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There should be more companies like Chatsworth Products Inc. or CPI for short. The firm’s employees have been calling the shots since a 1991 buyout from a Fortune 500 company and it shows.

“We have ownership meetings every month where we go over the state of the company and what has been going on,” Joan Fowler, the company’s marketing and communications manager told me at the recent BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando. “It’s an interesting environment.”

CPI, which has manufacturing facilities in Chatsworth, Calif., New Bern, N.C. and Georgetown, Tex., is definitely different in that the top-down style of management does not exist.

As an example, while the marketing budgets from a number of heavy hitters in this industry – no need naming them for they know who they are – vanished during the recession and have not returned, the employees of CPI realize the value of having a good marketing plan or at least, enough cash in the coffers to throw a good bash.

The company even has its own rock band – Bent Metal – and on the Monday night of the conference, they were the star attraction at CPI’s GlobalFrame World Tour Party. Amazing that a cabinet system – the GlobalFrame was on display in the exhibit hall – could generate so much attention, but it did.

Following the event, CPI eContent specialist Jeff Cihocki posted the following on the company’s blog site: “Over 500 conference attendees packed a local Orlando hangout called Howl at the Moon to be entertained by the world’s great IT infrastructure band, mix and mingle with CPI employees and enjoy a fun-filled evening complete with bouncing beach-ball CPI globes and a red-carpet entrance into the venue through the GlobalFrame itself.”

Bent Metal (see photo on p. 8) have been together since 2008 and consist of band founder Jack Larson (Area Vice President – Eastern U.S. sales) on drums, Michael Tully (regional sales manager) on lead guitar, Bob Sienkiewicz (associate product manager) on bass guitar, John Thompson (field application engineer) on keyboards and singing vocals, Gary Hebert (regional sales manager) on rhythm guitar and Bill Bippus (regional sales manager) on lead vocals and guitar.

The gig in Orlando included songs ranging from Prince’s Purple Rain to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, with all lyrics replaced with tech verses such as “hot air recirculation in high densities, cabling all night, pulling patch cords tight,” and “Honey I know, I know Data Centres are changing.”

In an e-mail to CNS following the event, Thompson talked about how one lunch with Sienkiewicz to discuss “our electronic products” ended up morphing into Bent Metal.

“Folks are still asking when the CD’s and DVD’s will be available – lots of requests for the black Bent Metal T-shirts as well,” he wrote.

“I certainly don’t know where this Bent Metal road will lead but I will hold on tight for the duration of the ride.  Our company and its culture are truly a remarkable combination of many ingredients resulting in a warming brew.

“I guess to date, the Orlando gig is our crowning achievement. Of course, we had no idea of what to expect and when we saw that the place was packed we were out of our minds excited.

“It certainly is refreshing to know that my CPI partners thrive on thinking outside of the box and are willing to push the envelope …That’s my take and I’m sticking with it…”

You can watch the performance on CPI’s YouTube channel page or read about on the corporate blog. This is a company that understands the importance of traditional marketing and the power of the social network and you know why?

Good things can happen when you empower an employee.