Path to success Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2010
Finalist
Manufacturing

Don Leith is proof that failure can lead to success. His path to president and CEO of Panther Global Technologies wasn’t smooth.

After high school, he and his wife bought a pizzeria, which they operated at night after he worked all day in a mechanic shop. Their hectic schedules resulted in divorce. Leith realized he didn’t have enough time for the pizzeria business, so he quit.

He then interviewed for a machinery operator position at Ford Motor Co. He said he knew how to operate every machine — though he only had experience on a lathe machine. Fortunately, that’s the one he was assigned to. But he wanted more independence, so after three months, he quit, bought a lathe machine and worked from his garage.

When that business flopped, Leith lost his credit and hired a consultant. Another client of his consultant was trying to get out of a profitable 50-50 partnership because of personal disagreements. When Frank Zamit met Leith, he brought him on board as the other 50 percent.

They got along but struggled financially. The night before meeting with a key creditor, Leith drew up a business plan that secured a loan.

In the first year of their new crankshaft manufacturing business, Leith and Zamit paid off outstanding loans, debt and vendor payments. Leith eventually bought Zamit’s share then sold 80 percent of the company — which became Panther Global Technologies — to a private equity fund.

The year after the sale was the worst, but Leith came up with another business plan that included reducing personnel. It was a stretch, but the resulting smaller company was nimbler and able to jump ahead of the curve.

How to reach: Panther Global Technologies, (248) 960-3636 or www.panthercs.com