Jim and Jason both know the importance of fostering a great company culture within their businesses. Knowing where to begin and how to accomplish a thriving culture, however, can be daunting. In this insightful episode of MakingChips, Jim shares his personal experience building a company culture that won Carr Machine & Tool the Spark Award for Culture and Workforce Development.
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When your team embraces the core values of your company, the result is hugely impactful. Jim and Jason have both discovered that when manufacturing leaders take the time to pour into their team and employees, more is accomplished and business goals are not only met, but exceeded. Your people matter, and how you communicate the mission of your company to them is key. Jim explains that learning to listen to your employees and making structured room for conversation is the foundation for company culture success. The core values of your company should be honed down to just a few. They should act as the internal compass of your business and be the why behind what you do. When your people are united behind a common set of core values and know that they are each valued and have a voice, making chips becomes that much easier.
Every business should have a stated mission and vision. Jim took those building blocks and presented them to his team - with a twist. He sat down with his team and asked them what their mantra and motivation was. What was their why? He wanted to know what it was that inspired and motivated his employees to get out of bed every morning and come to work at Carr Machine & Tool. The process offered powerful insight that gave Jim the tools he needed to communicate effectively with his team and understand his employees on a deeper level.
Jim knew that not everyone would have the same why and not everyone would understand what the company does in the same way. Jim explains that people’s answers change over time as well. For instance, not everyone on his team had the same answer for how the business actually made money. Jim encouraged his team to voice their differing perspectives so that he could better understand what areas he needed to clarify and unify his team. Structured round table discussions and reviews of the company’s goals, structure, and mantra help Jim keep a pulse on the health and vision of his company culture.
Fostering a company culture where success is celebrated and failures can be discussed are aspects of investing in his employees that Jim deeply cares about. Group and individual successes should be noticed and celebrated, he explains. He also wants his employees to understand that mistakes will happen - and that is okay as long as everyone can learn something from them. “No one is perfect,” he says, and the culture he has built is one where everyone knows that someone else has their back when something goes wrong.
Having fun together is also an important part of the company culture at Carr Machine & Tool. Jim organizes field trips for his team to conferences, IMTS, or group BBQs. Learning together and sharing a relaxed drink together helps build community.
For Jim, the emotional and physical health of his employees is vital. He explains that when your people are healthy, they will be able to put forward their best effort. As a leader, he fosters emotional health by talking with his employees and encouraging open discussion. Sharing is key. As for the physical, Jim likes to supply healthy food options to his team throughout the day.
For more tips on how to build up your people and create a thriving company culture, listen to the entire episode!
Growing a company culture takes time. Jim utilizes professionals in the areas that he needs help. He organizes standups with financial advisors and makes sure that his team understands the systems, investments, and decisions that the company is making. Uniting his team behind common knowledge of the company’s net profits and sales keeps any guesswork at bay, and taking the time to discuss hiring decisions as a team helps build trust and unity.
But where do you start? Jim encourages manufacturing leaders to simply begin the conversation with team members and employees. Giving your people the opportunity to speak and share is the perfect starting point. Structured dialogue can help foster a thriving culture while also keeping the focus on core values and business growth. “Everyone has a voice,” Jim explains, “and every voice is valuable.” As a leader, stay true to the decisions you make, limit distractions, and make it clear to your people that you are invested in them. Listen to the full episode for more tips on how you can set the example to your company and keep the culture thriving.
Knowing when to start the conversation about family business succession planning can be tough. Jim and Jason understand that the dialogue surrounding the family business can be hard as it is - without throwing in who is getting what and when. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim and Jason share their personal experiences as well as some insightful tips to help the manufacturing leaders of the Metal Working Nation get the ball rolling and keep the business growing.
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While bringing up succession is uncomfortable, it is important to start planning as early as possible. The earlier you begin the dialogue, the better. Jim shares that he knew the conversation needed to be brought up with his dad when he realized that the woman his father was dating at the time may have ended up being his stepmother - and an inheritor of all he had worked hard to maintain and create in the family manufacturing business. Family situations can get sticky, which is why it is vital to start now. Navigating all the discussions that need to take place, the legal issues, and the development of a practical, workable plan can take time. For Jim, it took several years from the time he began the conversation with his father to the time everything was legally settled on paper.
Jason shares that while his family situation wasn’t as difficult as Jim’s, his dad still realized the necessity to begin succession planning early in case of unforeseen or unfortunate events. It isn’t only about settling who gets what and when - it is also about preserving the future of the business.
Jim knew that he didn’t want the amount of effort and energy he was putting into the family business to go to waste. It is important to understand and be honest with your family members about who has the greatest or equal interest in pursuing the future of the company and who is best equipped to handle the financial ups and downs. Jim shares that he didn’t want the business to be pulled out from under him by someone else when he was the one that had put the greatest amount of effort into the company and knew that was where his passion lay.
Similarly, Jason shares that while he and his sister both owned shares in the family business, Jason and his wife had sustainable future plans for the company and held a greater level of interest in its growth. Both Jim and Jason walked through the succession planning journey with their families, taking into consideration that it would be difficult and at least a little bit painful for everyone involved. The priority, however, always had to be the success of the business. Listen to the entire episode for details on how Jason and Jim helped their families walk the path of succession planning to cohesive decision-making.
Jim stresses the importance of seeking professional help when building a family business succession plan. Understanding which appraisals matter for tax purposes, payment plans, and divvying shares is vital. While conversations can create plans that seem doable, having everything put into a binding, written agreement is key. Having a business appraiser, attorney, and corporate account present can help you and your family make sense of everything involved and what needs to be done to make your succession plan a reality.
Jason explains the importance of understanding the fine print. You and your family probably won’t come to complete agreement on the first draft of the succession plan. Is what is being handed to you what everyone needs? Jason knew he didn’t want to be handcuffed in any way when he took over ownership of the family business, and so further work had to be done on the succession plan before he and everyone else was content with moving forward.
Get the conversation going - no matter what. Yes, it can be uncomfortable - whether you are the one giving everything away or the one receiving. Yes, it can give rise to rifts and pains that no-one in the family will want to feel. Jim and Jason stress, however, that the longer you wait, the worse it gets. They suggest networking with peers that may be going through the same thing and collecting thoughts and ideas on how to navigate the succession waters so that you don’t drown when you go in to start the conversation. The important thing to remember is that you do not want something such as succession planning to be a looming impediment to your family business. The growth and success of your business should always remain at the forefront. Because if you aren’t making chips - you aren’t making money.
Specific skills and savvy are needed to succeed in the manufacturing world, making a manufacturing startup difficult to achieve. Brandon Kane, however, knew he wanted hands-on work that made a difference in the world and began his own shop in the garage with his dad, Mike. Together, they have transformed a dream into reality through hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim Carr and Nick Goellner explore what makes or breaks startup business endeavors and what we can learn from Brandon’s entrepreneurial spirit.
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Entrepreneurship has many benefits. Most small business owners were inspired to create their own startup from a desire to work for themselves and be their own boss. Others had a passion they wanted to share with the world. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most startups don’t make it past their first couple of years. Jim and Nick share some surprising startup trends from the past few years. Most small business owners, for instance, are 50-59 years old - not young college graduates. The funding to start a business is often taken from the founder’s personal savings account, and family is usually a strong source of continued funding for the initial months of a small business. Learn more about the interesting statistics of startup businesses by listening to the entire episode!
Manufacturing is often seen as an industry that has a hard time inspiring the younger generation to follow in its footsteps and pave the way for the future. Brandon Kane, however, grew up watching his dad work in the manufacturing industry and fell in love with “hands-on” work. He attended a technical high school, learning skills that would help him late on when he decided to begin a manufacturing startup with his dad in their garage.
Brandon’s dad, Mike, settled into his role as the visionary of the business - having seen needs in the industry that weren’t being met by the larger corporations and companies. While time is money, there should always be excellence in production, and Mike felt that smaller orders weren’t being met properly by the larger businesses. Mike helped Brandon begin a small business - Manufacturing Solutions - that saw a need and began filling it.
Brandon’s love of design led him to experiment with CAM software on their first machines, creating a trigger for a firearm they use for hobby target practice. From there, the designs became more complex, and Brandon’s knowledge of software grew to produce prototypes, and he became more comfortable with different tool paths and CNC machines.
Jim and Mike talk about the differences in the ways that they learned manufacturing skills as opposed to how the younger generation - such as Brandon - have picked up the skills needed to succeed. While it used to be popular to learn through hands-on experience with the machines themselves - learning to feel and listen to the tone of a machine and metal to determine whether or not the design would come out - Brandon learned through CAD-CAM software first. He and Mike purchased a video series on how to work the tools with the software, but much of the learning was done through experimentation and from mistakes made along the way.
Mike explains that in a startup, you learn a lot through failure. He talks about the edge that modern technology can give a manufacturing startup by providing new software that can optimize a CNC machine to produce quality parts every time with a well-built design. Probing systems have also taken much of the guesswork out of machining, allowing for a more consistent product.
While there are many differences in the ways Mike and Brandon have learned the industry, they are united through the passion to produce quality products to fulfill a need and to inspire a positive atmosphere among manufacturing leaders. Much of their business's marketing has been done through word-of-mouth and through maintaining a strong social media presence on Instagram. Brandon loves sharing his day-to-day life with others, hoping that his business will inspire others to launch into their dreams with determination and hard work.
Realistic benchmarks are important to any business, and Mike and Brandon have built theirs around practical goals. They both know that they would prefer not to compete with large, corporate companies and have tried to maintain steady growth without growing too big too fast. Mike wants to hire another employee with the same passion for learning and sharing the manufacturing industry. Brandon wants to become a bigger influence on social media and hopefully begin coaching others while also building the business he and his father have built. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for the rest of the inspiring story of a manufacturing startup done right.
Life often gets crazy busy, and it can be hard to fight the stress that easily sneaks in and overwhelms the everyday. Jason and Jim unpack the causes of major stress and give practical insight and tactics for overcoming the stresses that keep leaders from performing at their very best. Speaking from personal experience, these two manufacturing leaders share their personal tools and explore the need to prioritize your priorities.
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Stress can come in quietly and pile up quickly. Life changes, bad news, distractions, and inefficient processes are only a few ways stress can overtake your work, family, and life. Businesses grow, teams expand, and life gets busy! Jason talks about a time when stressful business news impacted his health. Stress not only affects how you view and approach work, but it also affects your health, relationships, and effectiveness as a leader.
Understanding why you are stressed is the first step. The connectedness of the modern business world is one major cause of stress for many industry leaders. Technology has created the opportunity to be connected to everything and everyone at all times. Overstimulation can lead to incredible amounts of stress because there is never time to simply turn off and relax. How do you overcome the limitations of stress-induced scars and build a life of minimal distraction? Be sure to listen to the entire episode!
Jason and Jim share some of their personal tools for combating the stresses that permeate all of life - from work to family. Exercise, essential oils, writing out thoughts in short notes or lists, spending time with loved ones and friends, and taking the time to relax and laugh can all help reduce stress. Even spending time with a pet or taking the time to relax and drink a glass of wine at night can help mitigate the constant stimulation that your mind lives in throughout the workday. But what steps can you take to cut stress in the bud and mitigate its presence at work and as a leader? Jason shares seven tools for doing just that.
(7) Turn off notifications on your phone! It is easy to get caught up in group chats or conversations that could be had later or under better circumstances. Jason shares that he only leaves notifications on for family and team members vital to his current work. Otherwise, the conversation can wait.
(6) Use your calendar to plan ahead. Book out the next couple weeks so that you know what to expect and where you need to be and what you need to get accomplished. Knowing your calendar can also keep you from overbooking yourself. Have a plan and write it out ahead of time. Jim and Jason have also learned to be careful with which calendar invites to accept.
(5) Say “No” often. As a leader, you have a choice as to what processes, meetings, and jobs you need to be a part of. Know where to delegate and where to partake and be honest about how much time you have available for jobs and meetings that could be run and accomplished by someone else. Take responsibility where needed, but don’t overextend.
Jason and Jim explore tactics for fighting stress that require you, as the leader, to take a step back and take the time to dwell in objective observation. It is easy to become comfortable in the status-quo and not realize that things need to be changed. Jason and Jim share the following tools for creating that efficient and life-giving environment.
(4) Align yourself with great partners. Being willing to delegate the jobs that someone else can accomplish better than yourself is vital. Who on your team knows more than you about a specific job, or who do you know that has expertise where you don’t? Who has more time to give to a project? By delegating to the right people, you can grow your business by ensuring that everyone is giving their best work in their best arenas.
(3) Create a routine for yourself. Habits and a normalized routine can help keep the guesswork out of the workplace. Setting aside the time to accomplish what needs to be done while also creating space for creative work can help keep your day moving steadily forward.
(2) Take time to reflect on whether or not you have the right people in the right seats. Are your team members able to give their best in their current positions? Being willing to take a step back and observe whether or not a person, project, or conversation need to move forward as they are can be helpful. By simply moving a team member to a different position or by eliminating a project, you can create a more efficient path ahead for your business.
(1) Focus on the “ultra” important. Distractions can take away the energy and time you need to be channeling into what is truly important to you, the team, and your business. Being willing to utilize the tools above can help keep you from giving in to the distractions that riddle everyday life.
Prioritizing can be difficult - especially when you have so many vital priorities as a leader. The last tool Jason and Jim discuss is the need to focus. Jim explains the need for a leader to be flexible in his priorities for the day while not losing sight of the ultimate goal. Your checklist of to-dos will change throughout the day, and that is okay. What really matters is whether or not you are accomplishing the ultra important and moving steadily along the path to your personal and business goals. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for a more in-depth look at the tools and tactics listed above.
Everyone is different and will utilize unique stress-fighting tactics to overcome obstacles and distractions and create a healthy lifestyle. Taking the time to create in yourself the focus and endurance to combat stress will enable you to be a better leader. The important thing to remember is that, “If you're not making chips, you're not making money. And if you're too stressed, you're not making chips.”