As I sit at the computer to write my feelings and reflections on what the close to thirty six years of a labor of love means to me I get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of products manufactured by the shop and myself.
The shop succeeded in every way in its mission of meeting or exceeding our customers' expectations, with exceeding the expectations being the rule, not the exception. I can count on one hand in the thirty-plus years that a project left the shop that was not up to customer expectations. How is that possible. The answer is simply our pride in our work. Customer satisfaction was a personal challenge. Total embarrassment in not sending out our best was a powerful motivator.
Equal to the pride in workmanship was the commitment to honesty and integrity and our willingness to help other companies when they were in a bind. There was a day when those attributes were recognized and rewarded by customers. As the business world has changed to focus on the bottom line, we remained loyal to those people and companies that gave us excellent service.
In the late 1980's Precision Pattern an aircraft interiors company Dallas/dad had worked for several years earlier, called us to see if we could help build small assemblies for them. After dad had a meeting with them and agreed to help, the owner asked him if he was helping to set up another competitor. Dad replied he was not, and on a handshake, we began a long-term relationship with Precision Pattern that embodied the best in supplier-customer relationships. A relationship built on trust and cooperation. There were not many customer relationships after Precision Pattern built on those ideals as hard as we tried from our side of the relationship. Our stated goal being, "Our greatest pride is in the quality we put into every project and the interest we take in the success of our customers," could not dent the barriers put up by other companies. Barriers, I believe, were put in place by people who were/are ignorant of the importance of cooperation and trust in the success of a project.
Dad and I talked about all of the different kinds of products we had completed fin thirty-six years. The journey includes but is not limited to the following custom office furnishings, composite aircraft cabinetry, high gloss finishing on aircraft cabinetry, work on presidential aircraft, plastic vacuum forming, cnc machining, laser engraving, solid modeling, 3D printing. No other business in the area had the depth of experience as our shop had. Experience gained out of necessity and curiosity.
I contend that the roots of Design Manufacturers Inc. reach into the mid-1960s when dad began working at Baldwin Piano Company first as an instructor and subsequently as a plant supervisor. Baldwin is where he started learning manufacturing processes. It amused me when people would come into the shop assuming that the little business in central Kansas had a limited knowledge base and background.
So with the shops equipment sold what does that mean. It means a chapter of my life is closing. A chapter I am very proud of. A chapter full of laughter, tears, good times and bad times is coming to a close. A father and son story that should be the envy of every son who left home and never fully got to know their dad.
What is the future? The answer is simply I do not know. Is there a place for a middle-aged man who not only has the shops 36 years worth of experience but has also taken the time to study people, business, companies, leadership, marketing, sales, HR, continuous improvement et al.. Dad said it best in a conversation that no one is more experienced and well-rounded than you are in the area. Perhaps there is a business owner out there who understands the importance of well-rounded individuals. A well-rounded person not being an expert necessarily in any one field. But the person who understands the puzzle of how all the pieces of a business need to fit together. Essentially a person who does not need to be the top dog as it were but is comfortable behind the scenes playing a supporting role. Perhaps just perhaps.
So what are the takeaways? Accepting the challenges brought us by our customers and exceeding their expectations in quality and customer service was my greatest satisfaction.