21, April 2023
Susan Murray Carlock: Business Savvy Balanced by Personal Commitment
This blog is part of a series highlighting women who are making an impact on the manufacturing industry.
Susan Murray Carlock is the Vice President of Business Development at Mursix Corporation. Her family has worked for 33 years to expand the company’s capabilities and the industries it serves. Its core competencies include metal stamping, plastic injection and over-molding, CNC machining, welding, assembly, plating, and many other value-added services for the automotive, medical, industrial, security, and defense sectors.
The company began in 1945 as Twoson Tool, a manufacturer of metal hose reels. Fun fact: James Dean was employed with Twoson Tool briefly before moving to Hollywood to become an actor! By 1990 when Susan’s father bought the company, the customer base was mostly appliance related. Since then, Mursix (the company name is a combination of the family name, Murray, and the number of family members) has grown from a $3 million business with 25 associates to a $40 million company employing 200.
Pivoting from nurse to co-owner of a manufacturing plant
Manufacturing wasn’t on Susan’s radar when she was younger. She was the only sibling in her family who didn’t join the family manufacturing business right away. Instead, she stayed on her trajectory to become a registered nurse, earning a Bachelor of Science from Marian University. She worked for 12 years in emergency medicine, home health, and for a contract staffing agency startup.
Susan left nursing to stay at home with her kids until they were settled in middle school. At that point, she finally accepted her brother’s plea to join the family business by starting a health and wellness program at Mursix. She quickly worked her way up in the company, serving as the Director of Human Resources and finally landing in business development, where she develops new business opportunities and partner relationships in both domestic and international markets.
Susan’s innate talent for caring about customers and employees is no wonder given her background in nursing. In pivoting professions, her philosophy is that business is about people, whether you’re an RN in an emergency room or a co-owner of a manufacturing plant. Over the past decade, Susan has been key to Mursix’s growth. She’s helped diversify the company’s offerings and build the right teams to make them a truly advanced manufacturing partner.
Susan has always been fascinated with how things are made. She finds seeing and understanding the manufacturing process fun. “Manufacturing can be stressful and challenging (causing a customer to go line down is not an option), much like emergency medicine. The challenge of orchestrating different skill levels, and triaging situations to solve problems and develop proactive strategies makes manufacturing very attractive to me,” says Susan.
It’s critical to know your “why” – why do you want to do what you do?
According to Susan, “While I realize my entry into manufacturing wasn’t entirely organic, it didn’t come with entitlement, and it’s been a journey of constantly having to prove myself. This is the reality for women in what is typically known as a man’s world (although I know this reality is going by the wayside). Striking a balance between assertive and aggressive is essential. Knowing who you are and what you can do will go a long way.”
Her advice for women interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing is to know your “why” – why do you want to do what you do? Will this add value, and will you receive value? Is this something that you can even do? She recommends finding a mentor and surrounding yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than you. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert in everything – you can speak what you know.
Susan has faced challenges and overcome them. Her advice is to face fear and adversity by going toe-to-toe with people – constructively, not antagonistically. Accept feedback because you’re not perfect, and you should always seek to learn and be better. At the same time, be vulnerable and transparent. This opens you up to new opportunities.
Good leaders require a funny bone, a wishbone – and a backbone
Business-savvy and balanced by personal commitment best describe Susan. Growing up around her family’s company brought manufacturing – and the people who make it happen – close to her heart. Through this connection, she has a natural ability to head up the company’s efforts in serving long-standing customers, earning the trust of new ones, and creating a positive tone from the front office to the back dock.
Susan recalls a saying that she thinks hits the mark – good leaders need three kinds of bones:
- Funny bone: If we can’t laugh at ourselves and the things that happen in life, then we’re probably taking things a little too seriously. Keep your perspective in a healthy place.
- Wishbone: We need to keep our dreams alive and maintain hope for a bright future.
- Backbone: There are times we must stand up for what we believe in. This will require fortitude and confidence in your ability to make the right decisions.
Find the balance and live with intention
Besides working at Mursix, Susan serves as Chair of Purdue MEP’s (the Indiana MEP Center) Board of Advisors. She works to better the state’s economy as a member of the Conexus Indiana Executive Council. She’s also active in organizations that champion women in manufacturing.
Still, she finds times for life’s good stuff. First and foremost, she is the proud mother of two boys, one a high school junior and the other a soon-to-be college graduate who intends to continue to law school. She is recently engaged and planning a summer wedding. And during her free time, she enjoys kickboxing, travel and skiing.
Her overall advice is to support, promote and inspire others. This is vital to the continued growth and success of any organization and its individuals. Lastly, Susan recommends living with intention, practicing humility and empathy, and to always be curious.
Blog originally appeared here.