Playing For Keeps

Putting On The Brakes

The company was poised to take off--but the partners were determined to control its growth. "You can grow yourself into bankruptcy," says Marenyi. "We had an opportunity to sign 50 or 60 dealers, but we wouldn't have been able to fund that growth internally. So we laid out [our plan], measured it and did it over three years."

Despite Marenyi and Sally's efforts to grow slowly, in mid-1995, the partners had to refuse orders when Woodplay couldn't make its products fast enough to meet dealer demand. The root of the problem was Woodplay's manufacturing capacity: It was maxed out.

For more than a year, Marenyi and Sally adopted a roll-up-your-sleeves strategy: "Each manager, including myself and Jim, would work one night a week, cutting, drilling, sanding, whatever needed to be done in manufacturing," says Marenyi. "We'd work until the night shift was over and then come back in the morning and do the regular stuff."

Becoming hands-on managers helped, but the company's manufacturing capacity was still stretched to the limits. Then last October, serendipity struck: The partners had the opportunity to purchase another imperiled company--Wood Graphics Inc., a Raleigh wooden sign company that was facing foreclosure.

Well-acquainted with the art of rejuvenating a struggling business, Marenyi and Sally realized they had a winner on their hands and quickly bought the new company. The beauty of the situation? Wood Graphics had the woodworking ability needed to augment Woodplay's manufacturing needs, and the waste product at Woodplay became raw material for its new sister company.

Not surprisingly, under the guidance of Marenyi and Sally, it took only four months for Wood Graphics to start turning a profit.

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This article was originally published in the August 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Playing For Keeps.

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