CYRK executives speak
Executives of CYRK Inc., a $400 million public promotional products company, told students about the trials and tribulations of starting a new company in a discussion last night at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration.
The company, which is based in Gloucester, Mass., designs, manufactures and delivers promotional products to companies, according to Gregory Shlopak, the founder, chairman and chief executive.
After showing a short video explaining "What is CYRK," Shlopak went on to describe how he started his own company.
While teaching in the marine biology department of a women's junior college in Pennsylvania, Shlopak said he became interested in investing in a distribution company.
Shlopak said he always had a desire to start his own business.
After facing several successes and set-backs, he started CYRK in 1975 as a screen-printing business that produced t-shirts and other products with brand name logos, he said.
"It was difficult finding a good niche in a new business and being competitive in an easy-entry business such as the screen-printing business," Shlopak said.
The company was struggling at first, but soon developed a good reputation, a fine network and good relations with people in the industry, Shlopak said.
"Success will be determined by your relationships with people in the business," Shlopak said. "It is important to develop relationships."
The most important things to keep in mind when considering starting a business are goal-setting, seizing opportunities and finding a niche in the market, Shlopak said.
"The whole workforce was dedicated to the company with hard work and by keeping a good attitude such as an over-readiness in serving clients," he said.
Patrick Brady, CYRK's president and chief operating officer, also shared his thoughts on how to handle the difficulty of starting a business.
"You have to keep thinking about how close you are at all times to success, how success could be right around the corner and you could screw it up if you don't see it," said Brady, who became a partner in CYRK in 1989.
"I always knew that I wanted to make a lot of money," Brady said. "I thought if I got straight As, and I went to a good college, I would make a lot of money."
Brady attended Harvard University and Harvard Business School.
"During college, I totally fell off my goals," he said. "I thought that if I got into college, I would be a success. It was not until my junior year when I realized that I wanted to go to business school. That was when I became goal-oriented again."
Brady spent two years working with General Motors Corp. as a production operations manager where he said he gained first-hand experience in management. He said he believes he was accepted to Harvard Business School because his experience in an automobile factory set him apart from the typical applicants from Wall Street.
Instead of working for a company on Wall Street, Brady decided to settle in a small commercial banking company in Saint Louis, Mo.
"If you wanted to own and operate your own company, you wouldn't want to work for huge investment companies," Brady said.