Originally Published – Sunday, January 15, 1984 – The Hartford Courant by Avery Brown
BRISTOL – It was supposed to be a temporary job, a favor to her father. But Jeanne Radcliff stayed on to become, at 32, president of Radcliff Wire Inc.
The specialty wire company on Ronzo Road was the last place she expected to find herself, Radcliff said.
“I had worked here one summer while I was still in school and I hated it. I swore I’d never work here.” she said.
With a degree in Spanish, a year of studying in Spain and another year of teaching in Chile, Radcliff was between jobs in 1975, when her father asked her to fill in for a few weeks at the company he had founded in 1959.
To her surprise, Radcliff said she became increasingly fascinated by the business as she learned the different types of wire and their uses. She decided to stay.
It was equally surprising to her father, Donald Radcliff. With three sons, “it wasn’t in his scheme of things to have his daughter succeed him, but that’s the way it worked out,” Jeanne Radcliff said with a grin.
After three years as a sales representative for the company, Jeanne Radcliff moved into production. In August 1982, her father decided to semi-retire as president and remain chairman of the board. Jeanne Radcliff became president.
Despite the poor economy of the past two years that made survival difficult for many small companies, Radcliff said her original enthusiasm has not diminished.
“We held our own through that recession period, and in the last quarter of 1983, we really saw an increase in production. I’m expecting 1984 to be a very good year,” she said.
The company has more than $2.5 million in sales last year. But Radcliff said she expects that figure to be much higher this year based on the recent jump in orders.
Radcliff Wire began by supplying specialty wire – flat square or profiled wire to the many spring companies in the Bristol area. In the past decade, however, the company diversified – something Radcliff said she believes was the company’s saving grace during the recession.
Today the firms customers include the aerospace and electronic industries as well as spring companies, she said. Its specialty wire is found in a wide range of products, from nuclear reactors and heavy machinery to jewelry, eyeglasses and toothbrushes, Radcliff said.
By concentrating on specialty hard-to-find wire products, Radcliff Wire has been almost unaffected by the foreign competition that has hurt so many of the larger wire producers in the region, such as Bristol Brass.
“All of our products are made to order, so we don’t really feel that much pressure from overseas competition,” Radclif said. The company has found, however, that it now has to go overseas to get many of the materials it once purchased in this country, because many of the alloys aren’t made here anymore.
Radcliff Wire sells throughout the country as well as Europe, Japan and Latin America. Its workforce of about 35 employees has remained stable for the past decade, Radcliff said.
Radcliff said she has never regretted her decision to stay with the company. The job has become easier with experience, she said, and as others in the industry became accustomed to working with a woman.
“It’s really interesting how much attitudes have changed. When I started, I was the only woman in the business. I can remember when I was in sales, customers would ask to speak to a salesman instead of me, but it all has changed,” Radcliff said.
Now, there are more women in sales and purchasing, Radcliff said, and she is less of a curiosity. In fact, her success as president of the company has made a few of the male owners of “other small companies say ‘Gee, I never thought about my daughter going into business, but I guess it is a real possibility.'”