When life throws you curveballs, you either need to duck or hit them. Just ask Rachal McCarthy, who is redefining what’s possible for women in the textiles and manufacturing industries.
“When I was growing up, I swore I’d never work for the family business,” says McCarthy, 37, president of NTI Global, based in Amsterdam, N.Y. “I’m glad I did decide to be part of our company, though. We celebrated 40 years in business this past summer, and it’s an honor to carry the torch as a second-generation business.”
NTI Global started when McCarthy’s father, Stephen Raeburn, founded a little cut-and-sew business in 1983, “when people still fixed things like boat covers and truck covers,” McCarthy says. Though her father didn’t know how to sew, he was industrious. “He bought a sewing machine, learned how to use it and started making tarps and more.”
Through the years, NTI Global expanded to serve core markets including industrial temporary ducting, confined-space ducting and other niche items. “Air movement is critical for mitigating damages after natural disasters like hurricanes,” says McCarthy, who notes that temporary ventilation systems for hospitals, hotels and homes remove moisture from the air to reduce mold and mildew growth. “If you need anything temporary to assist with air movement, we can help.”
McCarthy joined NTI Global at age 20, instead of going to law school as she’d planned. She started learning the logistics side, handling imports and exports. “My father made us [her and her brothers] learn every aspect of the business and work our way up,” she notes.
Some clients would try to go around McCarthy and deal with her father instead. During one in-person meeting with Korean suppliers with whom McCarthy had been negotiating by phone, they ignored her and directed the entire conversation to her now-retired father. “My father respected our clients but allowed me to lead the conversation,” says McCarthy, who became the company’s president at age 25. “I had to work twice as hard to prove my worth as a second-generation employee, and then I had to prove I was twice as smart because I’m a woman.”
Building on a solid foundation
Today, NTI Global has team members in upstate New York as well as in Texas and is led by McCarthy and three of her brothers: Benal, research and development specialist; Sarek, sales manager/East Coast; and Shneer, an operations leader who directs information technology and inventory management.
McCarthy and the NTI Global team embrace the company’s four core values:
1. Provide an enjoyable, safe, collaborative work environment. It took countless late nights and extra hours for McCarthy to earn the respect of some colleagues and clients. “A lot of assumptions used to be made about women in textiles and manufacturing. This was an old-world industry until about 15 years ago, when technology really forced the industry to change. Suddenly, not everything was shop-floor politics.”
Today, McCarthy hires for attitude and trains for skill. “I look for people who are positive, who aren’t afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,’ who like a team environment and enjoy seeing others succeed.” Rather than go through a traditional job application process with potential candidates, NTI Global offers factory tours about twice a year. “If people like what they see, then they can apply,” McCarthy says.
She also conducts “pulse checks” across the company, either through in-person visits or video calls, to stay in touch with employees. “Transparency on timelines and projects is essential,” says McCarthy, who travels frequently between New York and Texas.
Collaboration and empathy go a long way toward creating a more productive work environment, McCarthy adds. “I feel women are naturally more inclined to jump in and offer help to colleagues. When you manage this properly, it offers much-needed balance across departments.”
2. Ensure every team member strives for excellence and is appreciated. NTI Global is proud to build long-term relationships with employees and vendors both. Some of the company’s vendor partnerships span 30 years. Many employees have worked for NTI Global for 10 years or more, and one person has 39 years of service with the company. “When you build the right team, even the bad days are better, and the good days are great,” McCarthy says.
A spirit of creativity powered by curiosity encourages team members to strive for excellence. “We don’t encourage curiosity here; we require it,” McCarthy says.
It’s motivating to see more women become valued contributors to the company’s success, she adds. “We’re living in a time of great opportunity for women. We’re able to effect change in our industry on a much larger scale than 30 years ago, from product quality to company culture.”
3. Supply customers with quality products through excellent service. NTI Global doesn’t compromise when it comes to using high-quality materials. The company also prioritizes in-depth product knowledge. “Go to the warehouse and the factory floor to learn all you can about your products,” she says. “Understand these products far beyond a few bullet points.”
This is even more important in the social media era, says McCarthy, who learned this when NTI Global supplied swimming pool products. “People will see some tidbit online and ask whether the components are aluminum coated or zinc coated, for example. We follow up with our own questions, such as ‘How will you use this product? What’s your goal with this?’”
4. Do the right thing. This involves business savvy as well as business ethics. When McCarthy joined NTI Global, it served nine different market sectors. “My father’s philosophy was that you should have a lot of income streams that turn into a river,” she says.
For many years, one income stream involved fabric billboards. “It used to be that you could only get material in a certain width,” McCarthy says. “In the 1990s, however, a company came out with a wide-width fabric for wide-width printing.” Suddenly, a solid market sector evaporated.
More changes would follow after McCarthy became company president. “I wanted all the data and metrics I could get. It was time to determine what was essentially a hobby for us and what was a business.”
This process prompted tough decisions about what markets to serve and what product lines to divest. NTI Global sold its extruded pool cover line, for example, since it was a mature market with margins too low to justify future investments. “I think I became known as the ‘no’ person, but when we narrowed our focus, we accomplished our goals a lot faster,” she says. This is all part of doing the right thing, says McCarthy. “Not only is it rewarding to see our employees and customers succeed, but we want to build a business that will thrive beyond our time here.”
Darcy Maulsby is a freelance writer based in Lake City, Iowa.
What excites you about the future?
Fabric! I really think the future is textiles. There are so many incredible advances in fabrics. Today, there are some fabrics that can monitor your breathing while you’re exercising. There are textile-based sensors for monitoring the healing progress of a wound. There’s also clothing that includes built-in tourniquets, which can be especially useful for the military. All this has tremendous potential. It’s exciting to see what other innovations will evolve with textiles in the years ahead.
SIDEBAR: NTI Global debuts VersaDOCK
During emergencies, every minute counts, whether you require immediate access to a hospital or need to keep a warehouse full of vegetables at the right temperature. Following disasters like hurricanes, huge amounts of valuable time are wasted making plywood transition setups to provide temporary HVAC access to the building.
“We knew there had to be a better, safer, faster solution, so we started testing options about five years ago,” says Rachal McCarthy, president of NTI Global, which has developed the patent-pending VersaDOCK™ system for temporary air movement.
VersaDOCK sets up in minutes, compared to traditional cut plywood, which can take hours and leave unsafe access points. VersaDOCK also reduces dangerous work tasks using saws; plus it provides a clean, safe transition for cables, hoses and ducts. “Once we were able to make the base material a fabric, we knew the applications would grow exponentially,” McCarthy says.
VersaDOCK is composed of four patented connection ports adhered to a fabric panel. This is encased in an extruded aluminum frame that’s stackable and extendable. The panel can be made of cut-resistant materials for added security.
“Our job is to make our customers’ lives easier,” McCarthy says. “We continue to look for ways to make these products better, safer and more adaptable.”