I think the answer to the title’s question is the same as the answer to “am I beautiful.” Those who know me are screaming, “the answer is NO,” but the correct answer should be, “It’s in the eye of the beholder.” I believe knowledge and experience work the same way. What I know may be useful to one person or company yet not to another, but I can guarantee it will be entertaining on some level. So, let me lay out some of the path that I have walked professionally—then you can decide if what I know will make my articles worth reading and (hopefully) providing some value to you and your operation each month.
Like many before me, I started in a lumberyard at the age of 18. I graduated High School on a Sunday and started on the insulation crew on Monday. It literally went from one of the highlights of my life one day to straight downhill like a roll coaster from hell the next day! I was immediately put in charge of standing in a truck feeding the hopper bunks of insulation, so the crew could blow it into walls. Every day, I came home bordering on heat exhaustion, covered in insulation, and looking like a chicken! It was top 5 worst 4½ months of my life. It did, however, provide excellent motivation to start college in the fall. Kicked down to part time, I was moved to the yard and spent the next 5 years going to college and being a lumberyard rat. I am grateful for the lessons and experiences I had in this time. I worked with old school guys who taught several hard lessons that have stuck with me for years. Earning respect from guys like that are still some of the proudest moments I have.
I graduated with a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree around 9/11, which was an extremely hard time to be new in the work force and find a job in northern Indiana. So, I moved down to Indianapolis and started with ProBuild. It was a perfect match—I was young, cocky, hard-working, and willing to do anything. Lucky for me, my GM and Design Manager’s personality types matched mine pretty damn well. Honesty, it was a challenge to keep up with the pace and learning curve, kind of like drinking from a fire hose. Here I was taught wall panel design from a gentleman who used to do it by slide rule and pencil. To this day, he is one of the best and most detailed designers I have ever had the privilege of working with.
We were growing fast and, as my managers moved up and on, I got the chance to run design. Those were some of the best years of my life—we had a great team, a ton of work, learning new concepts daily, and growing like crazy! We literally didn’t feel the downturn in ‘08 because we were expanding our factory just to keep up with demand. Another important lesson that I learned here: the faster you grow, the more pain there is. This is where the fun stopped and, for the first time, I was really tested (and don’t mean a little, I mean the weight of the world on your shoulders feeling). I am extremely glad for this experience though—without it, I don’t know if I would have been able to make it through later situations. It was a rough couple of years, but my family life was good, I was surrounded by a good team, and I was confident that everything would get better (which it did). When the dust settled, I had run our shipping department for a year and was now an outside field rep. Amazing experiences, and so much more knowledge and situations that I could pull from later in life.
I once had a manager tell me, “the best promotion I ever got was from another company.” I have always loved adventures and I struggle when I feel like I’m not growing. So, when an opportunity presented itself to move to Arizona and work for a new start-up that was determined to take over the world, I had to jump. Starting as Operations Manager at Katerra for me was like jumping on a space ship and moving to another planet. First time not living in Indiana, first time not living around family and friends, first time doing a start-up—honestly, there was a ton of first times there. Whenever anyone asks about my time at Katerra, it’s hard to collect my thoughts and, seriously, to include all of it would be impossible in this article. First of all, I met so many amazing people who I will forever be in debt to for the knowledge, advice, mentoring, and opportunity that they provided to me. It was strange to feel like I had learned so much just to realize there was so much more that I needed to learn. So, it was back to the old fire hose once again. Remember when I said I was thankful for the hard time at ProBuild while going through growing pains—this was why. This time though, I wasn’t surrounded by a team who I knew and trusted in a familiar setting with support outside of work. This was completely different and, for the first time, I really felt alone. I know I’m a guy and all that, so I’m not supposed to admit to having feelings, but I was terrified. This was easily the hardest 2-3 years of my life, not just professionally but personally also. I once heard someone say that, at the end of your life, after you add up all the good days and all the bad days, if the good outnumber the bad even by one day, then it was a good life. Well, sometimes the hard times don’t last days or months, sometimes it’s years. Those who have been in the industry for a long time can relate to this. Sometimes you must bear down and weather the storm. Lucky for me, I had a strong foundation and past experiences that I could rely on, and I’m grateful to all of those who gave me the chance to have those experiences.
Due to several reasons, I walked away from Katerra and moved back to Indiana, where I started as Business Development/Sales with German-based software company Dietrich’s. This presented an amazing opportunity for me to travel internationally and increase my view of the industry from beyond just the US. They have a great team and an amazing product, and I didn’t leave that position lightly. But, I do believe that, for a job to be a perfect fit for an individual and a company, the relationship must be a good fit both ways. My personality is different due to my experiences, I push hard and don’t exactly have a lot of patience, and I’m also extremely passionate. This isn’t always a great fit for every situation, so once again I decided to move on.
So, all of this has led me here, Square 1 Design and Manufacture. Sean Hubbard has been in the business for a long time and we have had a lot of similar experiences. I would even say that our personalities match up closely (although he might argue that). We both run hard and are passionate about the industry. And now, for the first time in what seems like a long time, I feel that I can use all of the skills that I have obtained from the last 21 years of my life.
I love this industry and I enjoy partnering and sharing my experiences and knowledge with anyone who wants to listen (and sometimes those who don’t). We are starting a revolution and there are amazing things happening in our industry right now. I want to be a part of change, and I want to help others create something that benefits others not just myself. I continue to be lucky in my career to know great people doing great things. It doesn’t matter if you have an old shop full of old equipment or you are one of the new start-ups backed by deep pockets—we can help improve and create the best solution for you and your operation. Change is now!
So, what do I know? It’s a great question—give me a call and let’s find out together. Also, check back next month, as I am going to break down the numbers on our Extruder line, which I think is and will have a huge impact on the industry!