By Bud Ellis, Founder
When I was a kid, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grow up. I always said I was going to run my dad’s shop and when I finally got the chance, that’s exactly what I did. By the time I was 18 years old, I had long hair, money in the bank and was driving a 1985 IROC Z28 Camaro.
It was never really work to me, it was just something I loved doing. I am not sure what it was, maybe it was something my father loved so I did too. Or, maybe it was because he started the business a year after I was born and I spent all my early years at the shop while my folks were getting the business off the ground. Whatever the case, after a full life in the business, I still enjoy what I do.
My mom and dad would tell a story about me when I was only 6 years old. One weekend we were at the shop and my dad was running a job on several automatics and he had a shop rag to wipe his hands in his back pocket as he went down the line checking the equipment. My parents started discussing something and a few minutes later they looked over to see me walking down the line with a rag in my back pocket looking over each machine real hard. When I got to the last machine, I grabbed the rag out of my pocket and wiped my hands, mimicking my father.
I look back when I started working with my father. His work ethic was very hard to match for most people. But things came natural for me and I guess that’s because being around it all my life made me fearless and always compelled to learn more. When I was operating a machine, I wanted to know how to set it up and once I knew that, I wanted to know more.
I remember one day when I was just getting started in the business side of the company and I told my father that I wanted to quote the next job that came in. I asked to do everything from the quote, to planning, ordering, setup, paperwork, everything. I felt like it was time and I needed to do this. He said yes, but wanted to see my quote first of course.
The very next quote that came in was for an Inconel Coax with recessed grooves in the ID with deep holes and a ± .0005 tolerance. I snatched it off the fax machine, and then calculated the material costs, tooling pricing, and added our shop rate.
At this point, I was 20 years old and it was my first quote so I showed it to my father for inspection. He was busy working in the shop and I showed him the quote and he said “No, don’t send that quote.” I was crushed and asked why, what was wrong with it. He showed me the problem areas on the part and the quote. Still determined, I went back to work on the quote addressing the problem areas he pointed out.
I showed him the revised quote after a lot of work. This time, he studied it hard and started running the numbers in his old desk adding machine. A few minutes later he leaned back in his chair and said “If you get this job you are going to do it from start to finish.” I said okay and immediately jumped on the fax machine and sent out my quote while he chuckled “It’s not going to be easy…” as he walked out into the shop.
A few days later, we were awarded the order for 250 pieces and I immediately got busy processing the order. I ordered the materials, tools and A few days later I started programing and setting up to start making the parts. I did struggle with it too, just like my father said. But I wouldn’t let him see me sweat and every time he came around checking on the job he would ask how’s that job going? I would say with a smile going good Dad and he would walk off chuckling
When I got the job done and ready to ship I showed the parts to my father, he took his time inspecting each part without saying a word. He inspected them with his eye loop, mics and comparator for what seemed like an eternity. Then he looked me in the eyes and said “Damn son, those are nice parts!” I remember feeling a great sense of pride and accomplishment then thinking I want to do even more challenging jobs.
I still have that sense of pride and accomplishment every time a job is completed.