Making an Impression

Bold Moves for Big Growth

Most people don’t know the name Showman Fabricators, but they know its work. For a third of a century, Showman has built sets for all the major networks, including an intricate two-story set with a flying LED screen for Fox Studios. If you’ve ever attended Broadway shows, such as “Moulin Rouge,” “Memphis,” or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” you’ve seen Showman’s sets. The company has also helped create public and commissioned art, themed environments and special events all over the world.

After hitting a rough patch in 2008, Showman’s owner, Robert Usdin, joined Vistage to grow the business. Soon after, he relocated his company — a move inspired by a Vistage speaker who pushed the idea of creative disruption as a way to revitalize a business.

Although it would mean leaving New York, Showman’s home for 29 years, Usdin was confident that moving to a much larger facility in New Jersey — along with implementing a dramatic upgrade in technology — would allow his company to take on bigger, more intricate work.

However, orchestrating the move would not be easy.

So Usdin mobilized his Vistage peer advisory group to help create an action plan. “The group helped him navigate all the moving parts,” says Chair Jerry Cahn.

Within just a few months of the big move, Norwegian Cruise Line asked Showman to design and fabricate a laser tag arena to sit atop the first of their newest class of cruise ships. The arena would need to withstand sun, wind and rain. It would be a challenge, but one that they were now equipped to meet. The new facility made it possible for the company to adapt its technology — specifically 3D laser tube cutting and 3D foam carving — to meet the demands of an extremely tight delivery schedule. Norwegian Cruise Line was so pleased with the results that it ordered two more laser tag arenas.

Custom fabrication is a competitive industry, Usdin says, so it’s essential to exceed customer expectations every step of the way. While he has always been passionate about his work — engineering, fabricating and installing scenic elements — he says that Vistage has helped him hone his leadership skills. He now embraces balancing his time between working in the business and working on the business. He also relishes the team he’s assembled and the growth they’ve seen.

Since joining Vistage, Showman’s business has doubled, allowing Usdin to grow his company to over 120 employees while building his executive dream team. Before Vistage, Usdin says he didn’t talk with anyone outside of Showman about his business. Showman is so unique he never thought that other business leaders could have similar challenges.

“It’s not like any of them have ever built a laser tag arena or Broadway set,” he says. “But that’s a special part of Vistage. There are common threads that run through every business, and we all learn from each other.”

“Over the years, Bob has learned to use data to redefine the core customer focus, adopt technologies for increased quality and efficiency, and implement systems to increase profitability. He challenges assumptions and welcomes new approaches to business development and innovation. The Showman Fabricators that he is building for the future represents a leadership transformation for himself and the company.”

— Jerry Cahn, Usdin’s Vistage Chair

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Vistage Perspectives 2020

Read about insights, challenges and successes across our community in the latest Vistage Perspectives magazine.