I studied communications, broadcasting, and film at college and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry for seven years. Most of that time was enjoyably spent in an international department, talking to people all over the world.
That opportunity was great, but my wife and I wanted to get closer to family. We moved to the US eastern seaboard and I fell into a marketing and communications role at Infinity Woven Products. I've always liked corporate organisations and there was an opportunity for me to be a part of the growth and development of the company. The water has never been far away in my life, but marine and textiles were both new industries to me and that satisfied my inquisitive nature.
We’ve gone from five employees to 40 since I joined four years ago and were acquired by one of our suppliers, Twitchell Technical Products, in 2016. So, there’s been big growth, a lot of change and I’ve been able to be a part of that. I’ve been fortunate in having a leadership team that empowers my ideas and concepts, something that I really appreciate.
I've also been a co-chair at the Marine Millennial Group, here in the US, which is similar to the METSTRADE Young Professionals Club. It has around 400 members and provided opportunities for me to make a difference, to influence and to understand a leadership role. It also exposed me via networking to a lot of people that I wouldn't have been able to get to know as quickly.
Organisations like the Marine Millennial Group and METSTRADE Young Professional Club are important avenues for people who are hungry and ambitious. It provides them with an organised way to learn to network and grow in their own positions.
One of the things interesting me right now is consolidation within the marine sector. The industry has built back up since the 2008 financial crisis and consolidation is really an attempt to bolster strong brands and give them unique market opportunities and diversification within their product lines. Doing this, they can service a wider scope of boaters instead of living within a niche. The challenge then becomes preserving brand integrity and maintaining sales through the next recession, whenever that happens.
Another hurdle is workforce development. Here in the US especially, we have a hard time being able to retain general labour and it’s hard to find skilled workers too. As an industry we need to get creative with that issue.
The third big challenge is the paradigm shift of the industry based on new generations. I'm 36 – my generation is not necessarily going to buy a car, a boat, a house, or certainly not all of those at one time. We need to offer experiences for people to sample before buying and those experiences will have to be good ones to compete well with other industries.
At Infinity, we work across a number of industries, which helps us in case of downturn and provides broader perspective. My role just changed to director in charge of strategy, corporate development and communication across multiple companies in the group and that also gives me a wide horizon across industries. It’s a big change from when I started as a part-time two days per week employee; now if I get five hours sleep that’s good!
My role involves a lot of travelling and I see that as an opportunity, visiting customers and trade shows worldwide. I attended METSTRADE from my first year with Infinity and one of the things I most appreciate with the show is its diversity, both with attendees and in the variety of materials offered. Being able to walk the floor and observe developments is helpful to continually challenge ourselves. Four years ago, we had no international distributors and now we have several across the world, many of them built out of relationships made at METSTRADE.
When not working I like to listen to a lot of music and try to watch a lot of movies. I'm interested in people and their experiences, so I watch a lot of videos of interviews. I'm also a huge (Chicaco) Cubs fan so my poor wife is subjected to either audio or video of games nearly non-stop in baseball season. She is a very patient person, when it comes to that and has even become a fan herself, which is nice!
Warren J McCrickard is the Director – Strategy, Corporate Development and Communications for Twitchell Technical Products and METSTRADE exhibitor, Infinity Woven Products. Infinity is based in the US at Dalton, Georgia. It manufacturers high quality marine grade luxury woven vinyl flooring and durable canvas materials for biminis and other purposes.