How this entrepreneur’s GAME-CHANGING STRATEGY turned his one-man operation into a THRIVING BUSINESS!
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Video Transcript

00;00;09;00 – 00;00;09;56

Good to see you, Tom. It’s been a while


00;00;09;56 – 00;00;26;13

Yes. It has. We saw each other for quite some time in the early beginning. Definitely. Yeah, we were doing that implementation podcast, so we’d meet, like, every week and follow your journey and see how it was going. And what did you learn and how are you implying it?


00;00;26;13 – 00;00;52;29

And but you’ve been often flying. I wouldn’t say just running. You’ve been flying for a few years now and, was it it was just you and me. I mean, it’s just you when we first. Or maybe you had a, like, a part time person, right? Or it was just me. Actually, when you and I spoke for the first time, I hadn’t even established the company officially yet.


00;00;52;34 – 00;01;01;29

Right. I was just looking at ERP systems. And you gave me that two hour or maybe even three hour.


00;01;01;34 – 00;01;27;08

A bunch of, Yeah, a bunch of my favorite sort of friend customers started with me giving them, like a 2 or 3 hour demo and just geeking out on it. It was because I had just come from being the SAP implementation manager for my other company. Oh, I can’t even admit I didn’t want any more pain. And yeah, awesome.


00;01;27;13 – 00;01;33;06

It was ahead that those were the good old days.


00;01;33;11 – 00;02;06;26

So you have grown a lot. and before you record, you said you’re about to hire three people, so. Yeah. What are you up to? What are you. What are you doing? We’re at 13 right now, and we want to be, 17 before the end of the year. And we’ve got a job offer out to one person, and, looking, another person is coming in from Michigan next week, and, well, it really hiring far.


00;02;06;31 – 00;02;35;45

everybody is from afar. Mississippi, Florida, two people from California, one from Colorado. Ohio. Two people for a while. Yeah. The term build it and they will come. Come. This coming to my head right now. So yeah, I love what you’re building there. So, sounds like you’ve been busy, obviously ever hiring. You got work, you got chips to make, you got spindles to turn.


00;02;35;49 – 00;02;58;56

Tell us about that. Well, the easy part that I didn’t know about was, you know, writing a check for a piece of equipment and bringing it in here and getting it set up. The harder part. Honestly, Paul has been getting the right people. I made a lot of mistakes early on. We had almost 100% turnover last year.


00;02;59;01 – 00;03;28;42

Oh my gosh. And the problem I, I created, this is I was focusing on what the resume is, what the technical details that these people really knew. and what’s super important to me is the kind of culture and people that we have. When we first started, we had two wonderful guys who, through just family issues.


00;03;28;42 – 00;04;05;01

They ended up going back from when it really came one. And the Georgia Tennessee area and the other back in Ohio. But, but it’s very difficult to find cultural, yeah. And I would agree that is more important than technical skill. You can teach technical skills. You can’t teach culture at the same level, like you can coach people and you know, and helps scaffold them into being better, you know, cultural fits, but it’s kind of in there.


00;04;05;05 – 00;04;41;58

It’s not. And to some degree, right. It is. And it’s owning a business is extremely difficult. As you know. but it is not worth it to me to have a toxic workplace environment, or people that you can’t trust or. no, we’ve been warned as 9100 and ISO, and you have to be able to believe that people are going to follow the process because it’s a good process, right?


00;04;42;02 – 00;05;12;21

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think having a zero tolerance policy on toxicity and lack of trust has got to be the the standard. It it it’s okay to have the standard, but it’s gut wrenching to call somebody into the office and say we gotta call it a day. We gotta let you go. Yeah. And woe and and it’s excruciating to do that.


00;05;12;26 – 00;05;39;43

So yeah, absolutely. Those are some of the hardest conversations ever as a business owner, you know, so well then everybody else gets stuck with the workload and your customers and you know, so that’s that’s been an enormous challenge. But the crew that we have right now, Paul, we have meetings every day. And I just told them yesterday, we’re so proud of you.


00;05;39;48 – 00;06;18;17

So people they just give me a lump in my throat when I think of the, the what I call the gas, the give up. and they’ve got a lot of gas. I love it, and it’s great. That’s a good spot to be getting into. And now that you know what you’re looking for and you’re building that in the team that will that will perpetuate itself and, and, you know, I know for us, having our core values and truly hiring and firing based on those values is fundamental.


00;06;18;24 – 00;06;46;05

It just is completely fundamental to building a strong team that, functions well and, and is highly effective and focused on customers and focused on excellence and each other and supporting each other. oh. Why there’s so much pressure to, you know, make the chips and ship the parts and, you know, just be profitable and all that.


00;06;46;10 – 00;07;13;59

But when you’ve got a crew that that is owning the love that we have for our customers, we keep our guiding principles out on the lunch table, the the conference room and the engineering office. We keep them out when we have a meeting, we pick a couple of our our guiding principles, how we treat our employees, our customers, and and we just talk about one.


00;07;13;59 – 00;07;42;40

What does it mean to do this? And, it makes what we do feel more like a mission than a job. Yeah, I know percent. Well, I, I firmly believe you can’t overcommunicate on those things. Sometimes I hear people and I in my past have thought, oh, yeah, we have our core values. We put it up on the wall and that should be good.


00;07;42;45 – 00;08;02;11

That is not good. You can talk about it every day and it still won’t be enough. So yeah. So kudos to you for really leaning into that and doing that with your team on a frequent basis. And I know that’s helping build that flywheel of positive culture. so yeah, you know, we were going to talk about ISO.


00;08;02;11 – 00;08;28;08

I think these are just as rich and juicy topics, but it does probably segue into the fact that you are growing. You are expanding into new markets. You are, no longer a one man show. so congrats on that. And, you have somewhat recently got ISO certified, is that correct? I don’t have my exact dates. Yeah, I want to say we did that back in August of last year.


00;08;28;13 – 00;08;51;49

okay. We got our vacation and we just we had our gap analysis for a is 9100 about six weeks to go. And we had our as, final audit scheduled. But the auditor got very sick for a number of weeks, so. Oh, bummer. You had to push that out until, till the first or second week of May.


00;08;51;54 – 00;09;22;37

okay. But it is mid April, so that’s just a few weeks away. Less than a month. Right. And we had, we had the auditor come back actually yesterday and the day before just to say, okay, I’m going to give you a free, like, spot check. And we are we’re pro shop user, and this auditor has been in the business for 30 years auditing aerospace companies all the big all the big names.

And she’s a rock star in the industry. She sits on the board of. I’m sorry, I don’t know the governing board of a house. Right. She’s never seen pro shop. And she came in for our initial gap analysis and then came back this week. She said, I’ve never seen anybody cover as much ground as thoroughly as you all have covered.


00;09;48;38 – 00;10;20;07

What we needed to go over regarding the as, requirements, because as she explained it to me, the as standard is really more about the quality of your company rather than the company’s quality products. 


00;11;54;31 – 00;12;19;41

I come from an ERP implementation, from brand X.


00;12;19;46 – 00;12;45;05

And the thing that was important to me was that the QMS, there would be a QMS module, and, when you and I were interviewing for the first time, it was like, okay, this isn’t really a module. It’s it’s more of a key ingredient in the cake, right? It’s not a bolt. And no, it’s there everywhere. It’s poorly permeated throughout the software.


00;12;45;05 – 00;13;32;42

So I knew a whole lot less about ISO 9000 than I did about pro shop, but it turns out once the auditors come in and start talking to you about getting audited, all they’re talking about is pro shop. Well. That’s a good way to describe it. I love that, you know, it’s interesting with the pro shop standard, it’s interesting because, there’s this I think shift happening in the industry where some folks out there that are accustomed to kind of this bolt on QMS module or not even a module of your ERP, it’s an entirely standalone system of file folders and cabinets and paper forms or electronic forms that are it’s completely separate.


00;13;32;46 – 00;13;58;09

like wrapping their heads around how integrated it can be and the implications of how straightforward it is to have really robust compliance is it’s like without seeing it and understanding at a deep level, it’s even hard to comprehend how integrated it can be. And I appreciate the way you described it. Like you didn’t think you knew about ISO arrays, but after they came and started telling you about the requirements, you’re like, oh yeah, that’s what Pro Shop does.


00;13;58;09 – 00;14;42;28

Let me just show you. So, one of the reasons why the auditors scheduled extra time is on our ISO audit, was because they didn’t understand it and they, frankly, they didn’t believe us. I mean, yeah. And the same we had we had zero findings. No, it was 100% across the board. And how I think we did very little prep work, beforehand, just some things to remind us what you know, where the direction was and so forth.


00;14;42;28 – 00;15;05;40

But as far as, like, getting ready for audit meant just informing the shop, hey, there’s going to be some people around here that are coming on and interview you and, you know, make sure your training is up to date and. Right. Well, that that concept of being always audit ready sounds like you were there without even really thinking that much about it.


00;15;05;54 – 00;15;27;40

But you have been disciplined and keeping all the records and doing all the things which for me is just a foundational principle for quality and safety of the products you’re building anyway. And it happens to be also the most profitable way to run a business, because you’re not scrapping, you’re not reworking, you’re not scrambling behind schedule because you’re keeping on top of stuff.


00;15;27;45 – 00;16;02;18

You know, not that those things don’t surface sometimes out of your control, but when you can really minimize it, that’s just good business. I will tell you that I cannot think of any instance where we’ve really screwed up and I mean, trust me, we’ve really screwed up a lot. But I don’t think that there’s any instance that you could say, well, the reason why you screwed up was anything other than somebody trying to circumvent the system.


00;16;02;22 – 00;16;32;48

And and they think they have a better way. They it’s easier for them if they have this spreadsheet over here or. Yeah. Yeah, just I’ve heard that before. I’m serious. We we’ve been very late with a couple of jobs because outside processing was not followed in the system. It. Oh, I don’t know. You know, and that’s a painful lesson.


00;16;32;53 – 00;16;45;17

And it’s one that I think you just have to keep being disciplined. Right. you know, it’s this is a tough business. and artists in the world go to my grave saying it.


00;16;45;17 – 00;16;56;19

So, Tom, I have had you been involved in audits of any ISO or. Yes, or any other kind in your previous companies and past? No.


00;16;56;19 – 00;17;25;40

Not directly. Okay. Your company said, but not you as a as a as a key stakeholder. Right where you got it. Yeah, yeah. Would you I would imagine, did that, that those audits feel even though they were efficient and fast, did they feel robust to you in my previous work or, you know, I guess, I mean, if you hadn’t been hadn’t been in audits previously, you wouldn’t have really much to compare it to.


00;17;25;40 – 00;18;08;19

But, no, the audit you went through, like it was a thorough assessment of the company and all the objective evidence to the standard. I have to tell you, Paul, that the the primary result that I felt out of our ISO audit was not just a sense of pride, that we were doing things the right way, but also even though we we passed with flying colors, it really gave me food for thought for this continuous improvement ideas and some way that we can grow, where we’re doing things right.


00;18;08;19 – 00;18;50;29

But that’s really an opportunity area. And I felt that the auditor that we had was truly excellent. She came in with a, she was from Missouri, the Shawnee state, and, and so as we went down the path of, of showing her what we were doing, her it was an epiphany moment. An epic. Cleese’s moment, a like I had no idea what this is, but I’m going to be recommending this to other people because I hadn’t been through an audit before.


00;18;50;40 – 00;19;15;40

I, you know, and feel free to open the hood and look around, because I wasn’t really 100% sure what she was going to be looking for. But it was so nice to say, oh, that’s nice. Look at this. Oh, isn’t that shiny? Right. and it’s so elegant. to just be able to click. Oh, boom up on the screen.


00;19;15;40 – 00;19;54;42

There it is. And we’re not flipping through file folders or, everything was done very elegantly, which, I don’t know. There’s, I can’t tell you that. I even know how much I pay for pro shop. I have. I have honestly no idea. But when you’ve got the results like that, that just seem so natural to the way that you run your business, and you have a professional whose job it is to help you by uncovering some barriers of opportunity and where you can grow.


00;19;54;47 – 00;20;22;01

Although she did definitely come up with with areas of of how we do our training, more than do you do the training? All right, but what else can you include and so forth. And we’ve I take that are really you? I’m sure you do. So it was a fun actually a fun event because you went to a game that you knew you were going to win.


00;20;22;06 – 00;20;53;22

Yeah. Wow. That’s, that’s that’s just music to my ears. And, food for my soul. That’s awesome. yeah. And and it was a different auditor for as now, not the same person. Yes. Yeah. No, no, no, not at all. Okay. Yeah. well, it sounds like you’re set up, you know, pretty well for the next few weeks and excited to have that, have that cert, on your.


00;20;53;22 – 00;21;08;58

Well, soon. how would you describe the journey to ISO and then to as, as how it relates to your ability to expand and grow into new markets and customers?


00;21;09;03 – 00;21;45;27

we’ll probably have a couple of things to say about that. Wow. We started out with the, before I even bought my building or equipment. I bought the ERP. it was something that I knew was going to be important. So one thing that was very much on my mind, Paul, was that I did not want to have a piece of paper on the office wall that said, you’re certified without the activity within the four walls being certifiable, activity.


00;21;45;32 – 00;22;16;31

And people who knew what they did agree more. Yeah, I did not want to rush into this. And but now, because we’re growing, I’m talking to I’ve got a stack of business cards here on my desk. And if you can think of an aerospace or space company, their card is right here on my desk. And yeah, so I went to the, I went to the helicopter expo out in Anaheim, California.


00;22;16;31 – 00;22;45;24

This. Yes. Yeah. For five weeks. Yep. And. I don’t know, I’ve been to 100 trade shows, at least in my, in my life. And I was a little reluctant. I would go up to Brandon and I said, I’m an owner of a small machine shop in South Carolina, and we’re here to get some business from you. And I just thought I was going to be rejected.


00;22;45;28 – 00;23;20;41

but I will tell you, it took me the second the morning of the second day before I realized every single person that I spoke to said almost the exact same thing in a different way. We’re having so many problems finding qualified machine shops who will ship us good product on time. Let me take your home. And I’m engaged with conversations with probably no less than, I don’t know, 25 people here, and I’ve gotten work from three of them.


00;23;20;45 – 00;23;51;00

And then finally, since the expo. Wow, that’s the expo that is our own show. I’ll go. And it was the same thing, sitting down with with. I don’t think they mind because we’re not doing we don’t have an NDA with them, but Airbus, able Aerospace, zenith, Arrow Tech, Spirit Aerospace. And they’re like, as soon as you have that Ace 9100 certification, give us a call.


00;23;51;00 – 00;24;14;16

We’re ready. Can you come visit us before or you get. That’s a little confusing about. So I know that, I think I’ve seen you because you’ve tagged me a few times and us on some of the, machining Facebook groups or others, you know, networking groups for machine shops. And there’s so many shop owners in there that are like, hey, I’m kind of dying for work.


00;24;14;16 – 00;24;35;26

What are you guys doing to find work? It seems obvious, based on what you’ve just said in the last few minutes, but what would your advice be to a shop owner that is not flush with work right now? I would say if you’re a good machine shop owner, you’ve got good people, good equipment, and you can produce good parts.


00;24;35;30 – 00;25;14;46

I can only think of one reason why you’re not turning away work, and that is because you think you’re a machine shop. And I never thought that I’m a machine shop where I own a machine shop. I always thought of our industries as a sales organization that goes out and creates relationships with people who need machining done, but we could be we could pave parking lots, you know, for a living, but we would still be a sales organization, primarily serving customers.


00;25;14;46 – 00;25;36;57

And machining is just the way that we do it. That’s you’re giving me goosebumps here, Tom. That is such sage advice. And, I know it’s what people need to hear, and I’m I have the goosebumps because I’m excited for them to hear it. And I’m excited for them to lean into it and learn and improve their businesses and make better outcomes for them and their communities.


00;25;37;02 – 00;26;11;26

I would I would tell you the, the, the fruit of being sales oriented and let’s say that you are not a sales person. Oh, many are not. Yeah. And hey, everybody has their talent. Then as the owner of your shop or the leader of your organization, the main thing that you need to do is find somebody who catches fire with you to present what your mission is out there in the field, because if you’re not doing that, it’s a disservice to this country.


00;26;11;31 – 00;26;43;25

And I just want to say that straight up machining, CNC machining is of national security interest. General. Fig Newton, retired four star army general. I’m sorry. Air force. Pardon me. Air force general came and visited us. We were so happy to have him in our shop floor. And he looks around at the work that we’re doing and he said, this is of national security interest.


00;26;43;30 – 00;27;13;09

You must do this, and you must do it to the best of your ability, night and day. Do not ever give up on that. And just to inspire the shop people, everybody in this company to to really excel because we’re not making video games for people to spend their time idly by on. We’re not making TikTok videos or not.


00;27;13;14 – 00;28;05;20

And so we’re doing something. Yeah, it’s hardware for extremely important things, space exploration and a good airplane parts and all that kind of stuff. But our defense industry, yeah, the defense industry. Right. but I desperately want people to change their change their mind about what it is that they’re supposed to be doing. And without exaggeration, I don’t think that it’s any exaggeration whatsoever to say that in general, we’re probably turning away 50 RFCs a week and probably upwards of 15 jobs a week.


00;28;05;25 – 00;28;31;38
for various reasons, are not are not our work there. We don’t have the equipment available in their time frame. Yeah. But but I truly believe that’s because we’re set up with the right systems in place. But I think that we have the right attitude as to where we as a company want to position ourselves out there.


00;28;31;49 – 00;28;57;15

And we think about it every day and we act on it every day, just as much as making chips. just so I don’t know how you do get involved with that. Yeah. So I know you came from a much larger organization previously. and you are on your path to growing, to, a really nice sized shop.


00;28;57;19 – 00;29;16;29

how do you feel like you’re situated, particularly with the systems and pro shop, as you scale to. And I don’t know what your goal is. Do you want to have a 100 person shop someday or or or, 20 or 50 or, you know, whatever, but, 30,000. The number 35 is your number. That’s a nice that’s a nice number.


00;29;16;34 – 00;29;41;09

I really like it. do you feel like just mainly maybe in contrast to your previous, company? I’m fishing a little bit here for, just the systems. That pro shop is built and the ability to scale into bigger than you want to get, companies that need to have all this checks and balances in the systems.


00;29;41;09 – 00;29;52;51

How would you feel? pro shop sort of, sets the stage for that or brings the tools to the table for that.


00;29;52;55 – 00;30;30;00

you will remember that when I bought pro shop, there was one person in our industry that was me. Yes. And I cannot tell you how many posts that I’ve seen online that people say were too small to buy any NP. in my mind or thinking about this is the only problem that you would have. Buying Pro shop is if you’re a gigantic behemoth who’s whose inertia is too much to change to the right system.


00;30;30;05 – 00;31;03;37

And so as we’ve grown from just me to 13 people and we are made an offer today to our 14th people, we got our 15th person coming for an interview and our 16th person on our on their way for an interview. The growth of the company is almost immaterial to how Pro Shop operates. it takes me five minutes to set up a new operator, a new a new person in pro shop.


00;31;03;41 – 00;31;34;34

and their uptake of how pro shop works is, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t spend a whole lot of time training on pro shop because it’s all there. All they have to do is follow the links. So being able to go from one person to hopefully 17 people by the end of this year, it’s it’s a it’s not I don’t even think about that to be honest with you.


00;31;34;35 – 00;31;58;18

I don’t think about my ERP when I think about my growth. I mean because it’s sure it’s almost infinitely elastic and that in that area. Yeah. If you, if you did have aspirations to have a 135 person company, do you feel like Pro Shop would scale with you all the way to that size? There isn’t any reason why I would.


00;31;58;23 – 00;32;22;44

There’s no reason whatsoever. As a matter of fact, it’d probably be easier with 130 people to fill all the positions that you pro shop has got a myriad of cam positions there, and with duties and everything that just shares your job. So right there in pro shop. Yeah. yeah. That’s all for buying start package. I’m sure you’re alluding to.


00;32;22;44 – 00;33;00;10

So. Okay. Yeah. Well, I could not be more thrilled for your success and really inspired by the way you’re building this company. yeah. and then what? What was, you know, supposed to be a short little, you know, testimonial about getting ISO certified has turned into a really beautiful and fantastic video about, I think, the right way to build a sales driven business that is founded on four principles and quality and, it’s a really strong foundation for, you know, building the company of your dreams.


00;33;00;10 – 00;33;24;15

So, thank you for letting us be a part of that. Well, I, I think there’s two things that that go into this is, first of all, I knew what kind of organization that I wanted to have. And it just so happens that you and your team that built pro shop, built pro shop for companies that share that vision.


00;33;24;19 – 00;33;52;03

So there’s that. The second thing is that the I think the only time I’ve really gotten myself and our company in a lot of trouble is when we try to circumvent the system. And not just follow the plan. Right. you know, so, building this company has been made a lot easier because we have the right systems in place.


00;33;52;08 – 00;34;22;26

And, and I’m so glad for that because it and, you know, that’s that quite honestly, speaks to some of the core of what I believe so strongly is that a this is the hardest business in the world. And B, the people that start these businesses or buy them or, you know, or inherit them or whatever, need really good tools to make it less than, you know, a little bit easier because it is so difficult.


00;34;22;26 – 00;34;41;06

It is such a challenging type of business, but yet so essential, as you said, for national security or and everything else that that gets made in the world. so if we can provide some tools that just make the day a little bit easier and help them grow and hire more people and build their communities, that is exactly our mission statement.


So you’re, living, breathing proof of our mission statement in action. Well, let me let me say something to that. If you’re listening to this or watching a and you’re thinking about an ERP system, let me tell you a little bit of time. I come from a, implementation manager from an enormous ERP system, provider that’s German based that you’ve heard of.

I spent about five years in that role, and I started out I believe these numbers are correct. I started out with a total list of about 220 or 30 potential ERP providers, whittled that down to somewhere around 20 viable ones, and whittled that down to five companies. I believe that I got actual demos from, and I still keep in touch with the ERP community.


I still know who’s out there and what mergers are happening and so forth. Let me tell you, if you’re thinking about an ERP system, there isn’t really any competitor that that I can honestly say. And I’m not just saying this out. A confirmation bias. I’m saying this because, Paul, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think that was handled so eloquently.

And that was easy to do that for that customer. A big space customer called me and said, I know we were asking you to quote 32 of those parts. Could you make it 16? And while we were on the phone, I said, I just reset you. That quote, because all you have to do it, type in a few numbers, send it out.


00;36;32;58 – 00;37;06;31

That’s a level of professionalism and service. Maybe other people can do it, but when your whole system that elegant and easy and user friendly and customer focused, good luck finding another one. Well, that’s thank you Tom. Appreciate it. Appreciate you. this has been a very delightful last half hour. And, again, could not be more thrilled for your success and proud to be a partner with you on your journey.


00;37;06;31 – 00;37;26;09

So, Yeah. Thanks. And, good luck with, the actual, final processes. I have no doubt you’re going to knock it out of the park and, look forward to continue to watch you grow. And I’ll certainly let you know. And we’ve got the compost pile. All right. well, thanks so much for your time today.


00;37;26;09 – 00;37;29;03

Good seeing you. Likewise.

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