Steven Fage, 31
5 Nines Automation LLC
Location: Largo, Fla.
Birthplace: Warwick, R.I.
Social media: LinkedIn, Twitter @stevenfage
Education: Bachelor's degree in electronics engineering, New England Institute of Technology; master's in entrepreneurship, University of South Florida; certificate, RJG Inc., systematic molding.
Career highlights: Officially formed 5 Nines and signed first client, Yushin America Inc., 2012; featured in Tampa Bay Times, 2013; appointed a Tampa Bay Ambassador (part of a regional marketing program), 2014; featured in Control Design magazine cover story, 2014; training center grand opening, 2014.
Associations: Sarasota Manatee Manufacturers Association
Q: Tell us about your family.
Fage: I am very proud of my family — my parents, brother and sister. I have learned my sense of appreciation and work ethic from all of them in different ways. I was fortunate enough to be the youngest in that I was able to learn from what they did right and some things they wished they'd done differently. There is no one I confide in more than my family.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Fage: A robot technician internship with Yushin. To have the chance to be part of this industry was and has been a privilege. I loved robots and creating. Automation in the plastics industry got me hooked; that was 2005 and I'm not leaving.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Fage: Quitting my first and second jobs. Quitting was difficult, but was the necessary step for me in getting to where I am today. Having the experience in these positions gave me an enormous amount of appreciation … and insight to the industry's heart and how it behaves so that I am genuinely able to connect and understand its needs.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Fage: Challenging the status quo while respecting the experience and position of everyone in the industry.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Fage: That's tough. Sometimes I find old advice only becomes valuable after I've matured enough to really appreciate it. I'd have to say it was a quote from my father. He told me that no one ever got anywhere by remaining comfortable. It put the fear of comfort in me. It is, as they say, a sure-fire way to mediocrity. If I am not a little afraid or uncertain of my circumstances, I somehow find a way to shake things up and continue to challenge myself.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Fage: First, get a good understanding of the material science side, at least a solid foundation. The material science is the root of all and separates all individuals within this industry. It will allow these newcomers to innovate new materials and lower costs, which will ultimately lead them to success. Second, understand and appreciate the power of automation. It. Is. The. Key.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Fage: I would question everything. I see a lot of opportunity in the way plastic businesses are run. Many operate on the “this is how we've always done things” mentality. This leaves a lot of opportunity for improvement on the table in every aspect of the business.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Fage: I learn a lot from my customers and regional managers; their combined experience is invaluable. My parents have always been a good voice of reason. Otherwise, I'm all about Abe Lincoln. He was brilliant with a strong sense of resolve — the last true politician who was of the people and for the people. He stood for and represented the innovation of society. His main focus was on people and in business, if you can't understand and be for the people, you will not succeed.