Page 32 - BusinessWest July 6, 2020
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 Kumar told Busi-
Susan Jaye Kaplan, founder of Link to Librar-
ies, and Dianne Fuller Doherty, retired business owner and director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center’s Springfield office — both winners of BusinessWest’s Difference Makers award.
“I’m not afraid to ask for help; I’m not afraid to admit I don’t know something,” she said, add- ing that she believes good managers share these traits. “Feedback is a gift, and I firmly believe, if you don’t want to know the answer, then don’t
went on. “But we also have a really great team. We’re not the experts — we didn’t come in with a deep background in manufacturing, and that’s why we keep people from our acquired busi- nesses. Our job is to take all the information and provide the right vision.”
Parts of the Whole
Summing up her approach to her broad role at Universal Plastics, Kumar said, “my biggest failure
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“And understanding that and working with that popu- lation to make sure that they have the tools they
need to be set up for success became personally important to me.”
It was through her work with employees to understand and then help remove barriers that led to her involvement with a number of area nonprofits and institutions.
That list includes Link to Libraries, the non- profit that fills school library shelves and encour- ages reading by placing area community leaders in the classroom to read — Universal Plastics sponsors the Morgan School in Holyoke, which many of the company’s employees attended — as well as the Women’s Fund of Western Massachu- setts, Bay Path University, and Springfield Tech- nical Community College, which she serves as a foundation board member.
She’s become so enamored with STCC manu- facturing graduates that she has a standing rule with her operations manager: “if someone comes to us from STCC, you have to give me a reason not to hire them, because they’re all people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and they just need an opportunity. And that’s the kind of company we are; that’s the kind of compa- ny we need to be. We need to be the kind of com- pany that gives people a chance, and we need to do it over and over again.”
As for her own professional development, Kumar said she doesn’t have a coach, per se, although her husband might count as one. But she does read quite a bit on the subject.
What she does have are mentors. She listed
“I encourage people debating and saying ‘no, this is how we should be doing it.’ And when there is that open communication, there’s trust, and that allows me to do more, and the more we can grow as a business.”
   ask the question. But if you ask the question, you need to be able to stomach the answer.”
When asked about how she approaches the broad assignment of achieving work-life balance, she said simply, “I work at it.”
“I spend a lot of time planning, I delegate a lot, and I am very comfortable with having a list of things I wanted to get to but didn’t at the end of the day,” she explained. “There are days when the company is the most important thing — when COVID first happened, we needed to make our employees safe. And then, there are other times when it’s more important that we’re there for our children. My mother is having surgery next week, so that will be the focus then.
“I feel very lucky that I have a supportive part- ner who helps me manage all these things,” she
as a leader is when someone can’t tell me what they really think; if they can’t tell me what they really think, we have a problem.
“I encourage people debating and saying ‘no, this is how we should be doing it,’” she went on. “And when there is that open communication, there’s trust, and that allows me to do more, and the more we can grow as a business.”
Open communication. Trust. Helping employ- ees overcome barriers. These are the keys to suc- cess at this company — and any company, said Kumar, stressing, again, that four-word phrase she used in connection with all these matters: ‘we work at it.’ u
George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]
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ing, counseling, virtual learning communities, and social network- ing. The courses are designed to help provide the flexibility women need to engage in their studies, while still balancing their daily lives, jobs, and families.
As a result of the innova-
tive approach to learning offered through the American Women’s College, women successfully earn degrees at higher rates than national averages, the institution notes. The model has been widely recognized by industry experts, the federal gov- ernment, and granting agencies
since its inception in 2013. Most
recently, the American Women’s College was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Strada Education Network to use its unique model to close the digital-literacy gap for women.
Enrollment in this six-week, three-credit course is subject to availability. This offer is intended for women who are first-time attendees of Bay Path University. Active Bay Path University students and those enrolled within the past year are not eligible for this offer.
Any student enrolled in this course who wishes to officially enroll
“At a time when the retail industry has been dramatically impacted, it is refreshing to see Bay Path University, an institution dedicated to advancing the lives of women, provide an opportunity for women in our industry to gain a valuable skillset and college credits.
into a certificate or degree program at the American Women’s College or Bay Path University must submit the appropriate application for admis- sion and be accepted according to standard admissions guidelines.
To register for the course, visit The registration deadline is July 20, and enrollees will have course access on July 27. For more information, visit www.bay- u
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