The real reason that a protective sports gear business named G-Form staved off bankruptcy and survived the economic downturn sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic all comes down to attitude, says G-Form CEO and Northeastern graduate Glen Giovanucci.
Giovanucci, who earned his business degree at Northeastern in 1983, pivoted quickly after the shutdown and transformed G-Form from a protective sports equipment manufacturer to branch out to be a personal protective equipment manufacturer—shipping out 250,000 clear face shields per week to frontline workers helping to battle the nation’s health crisis.
He is proudest of cultivating a can-do attitude and determination from his manufacturing team.
“Culture is the most important thing in a company. You can teach skills, you can teach business acumen, but really you just have to have the people who have the fighting spirit and want to be there,” says Giovanucci, a former Husky hockey captain who later served as assistant hockey coach at Northeastern.
“I’m just coaching a bunch of corporate athletes. That’s what I do, and I try to surround myself with the best players,” he says. “Surround yourself with the best people who have the same values that you have, and coach them, and have a clear sense about where you want to take the company.”
G-Form, which sells lightweight protective pads for sports like soccer, mountain biking, and baseball to chain stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods, was already in trouble when Giovanucci joined as CEO in late 2019.
“I realized when I came in that we were a very underfunded company,” says Giovanucci. He had updated the management structure and put a new sales strategy in place when the pandemic struck and all of his customers stopped placing orders.
“We were really looking at going bankrupt within a month, because we didn’t know how we were going to come up with payroll,” he says. “The first action was we were going to shut our factory down. And then we were going to shut down the corporate offices.”
Instead, Giovanucci rallied his employees and managed to retrofit the business to sell face shields. His team of 40 local employees churned out 100,000 face shields over their first week and quickly ramped up to 250,000 per week at the Smithfield, R.I. facility. The operation partnered with other local manufacturing companies that constructed some of the masks as orders increased.
Then came last September, when suddenly the face shields that G-Force might sell for $2.50 were available from China and sold for 20 cents, says Giovanucci.
“They essentially put us out of business,” he says. “At that point in time we were dragging. You know the bus coming down the street with a flat tire and a muffler that’s hanging by a thread? That was us.”
Giovanucci decided to appeal to the board of directors for some financing, and that’s when one of them—a high-profile business magnate named Tony Minella—decided to purchase G-Form outright. Minella is the president and co-founder of Eldridge, a multinational business that invests in and manages companies like DraftKings and Dick Clark Productions.
“They decided to buy us based on a number of different things—but I think one of them was that the president was just really excited about our story,” says Giovanucci. “We’re very lucky to be on a great financial foundation with them.”
Giovanucci says the company not only bounced back but had its highest earnings ever in 2020, with half of those earnings coming from PPE. G-Form now has roughly 80 employees and is branching out—working on protective gear for the military and industrial gloves sold at Home Depot. Diversifying is another lesson learned from the tumultuous last year, he says.
“It probably inspired us to figure out a way to broaden our portfolio and diversify so we never get caught in that again,” says Giovanucci. “If you just stick with team sports and something like this happens, you’re out of business.”
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