From Big Mistakes to Big Success with Reg Zeller, CaneKast

From Big Mistakes to Big Success with Reg Zeller, CaneKast

October 19, 2022

You can’t get away from big mistakes in business, but what you can do is turn those mistakes into big success! In this week’s episode, Reg Zeller (the founder of the holding company CaneKast) talks about the importance of learning to roll with the punches and look at your mistakes (and the mistakes of your team members) as opportunities for learning.

About Reg Zeller:

After climbing the corporate ladder for many years (and experiencing a lot of stress and unhappiness as a result), Reg Zeller took the leap and became an entrepreneur. Five years after buying his first foundry, he has done six acquisitions and is on track to do another 15 to 20 over the next five years and to settle out at $100 million in sales which a big success!

Accepting mistakes can help you turn into a successful entrepreneur

Being able to accept mistakes is essential for becoming a successful entrepreneur. Mistakes are inevitable in the fast-paced, constantly-evolving world of business. Entrepreneurs who are successful consider their mistakes to be valuable learning opportunities rather than failures. Entrepreneurs may adjust and improve their strategies, goods, and services by accepting mistakes. It promotes innovation and creativity by cultivating a growth mentality. Moreover, entrepreneurs may pinpoint areas for development, hone their decision-making abilities, and build resilience in the face of difficulties by admitting their errors. Accepting mistakes also encourages team members to take risks and grow from their own mistakes by fostering an environment of responsibility and transparency within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Finally, accepting mistakes results in constant progress, allowing business owners to deal with uncertainty, make better judgments, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

Episode highlights:

  • Make sure your business is sustainable in the long term by putting the right people in place. You won’t be around forever, but if you build a strong team, your business could be! (11:55)
  • It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes along your journey, and if you give your team members autonomy (which you should), then they will too. The way to move forward is to treat all mistakes as learning opportunities. (14:56)
  • To be a successful entrepreneur, learn to roll with the punches! No entrepreneurial journey is going to be smooth all the time, and you have to be willing to take the hard times in your stride. (18:32)
  • Take the time to check out from your business and clear your head as often as you can. This will allow you to respond to issues more objectively and effectively. (37:04)

Reg’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“You have to learn to be okay with getting punched in the face and then turning around the next day and smiling and coming back the next day.” (34:16) 

Connect with Reg Zeller:

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:


[00:01:27] A.J. Lawrence: SMB Twitter is all about Acquisition Entrepreneurship, and Reg is one of the OGs. He is one of the most helpful giving people I’ve seen on there. There’s some people who drop amazing amounts of knowledge, and Reg does spend a good amount of time dropping knowledge, but what I think really set Reg apart is how often he goes out of his way to help people on there who are having difficulty trying to find out information about different things and spends his time for nothing, giving him answers from his perspective.

[00:01:59] Matter of fact, before this interview, before I even asked him the interview, he helped me. Right after the interview, completely spent an hour breaking down the concepts that I was struggling with an LOI, a letter of intent for a company I was trying to purchase, which didn’t happen. But still, he just went out of his way and I’ve seen him do it again and again for many people. And to me, that type of help is just so great.

[00:02:28] Reg has a background as an engineer who’s climbed up the corporate ladder into Product and matter of fact, climbed so high he was Global Product GM for GE, which in the corporate world, he was pretty much going places. He had some serious cred there. He probably would’ve been perfectly fine just going on.

[00:02:52] He would’ve done great, but he decided he wanted to be in Acquisition Entrepreneurship and bought a foundry. Now, we’ll talk about that experience he had. We’ll also talk about men going down, how he decided to continue buying more and now he owns good amount. He will talk about how so much of this comes from his operational partner and the value does, really praises him greatly.

[00:03:19] But what I found interesting was what he does to make that important, 1) he’s really trying to remove himself from the business. Now, in my mind, that takes two things. One, incredibly well-adjusted ego because myself and some of my weaker entrepreneurial efforts, and then other entrepreneurs I know, we wanna be the person who makes the business happen.

[00:03:46] We wanna be the spoon, laddle, whatever that stirs the pot. Reg is trying to remove himself completely from business, and he talks about cutting off to play golf. But what I think is important about that besides his own awareness of his ego, is how difficult it is to create a company that does it. So it’s almost like the more he optimizes himself out, the more he’s pulling himself out, the better the company has to be.

[00:04:15] And that’s one of those kind of fun little tricks where you line your goals in a way that makes it seem like you’re doing something easy. But the reality is it’s very difficult to do. The more he is out, the better the company is. Not a bad thing to have happen. He’s building some really good stuff. He also talks a little bit, and I think it’s worth paying attention to and thinking about what we want to the long term for a company, that he’s giving the companies to the employees.

[00:04:43] He talks about who he thinks will be most taking advantage of that and why. I’ve gone down some rabbit holes to make my employees in different ventures, part of equity stakeholders or phantom shares, and it’s very complex and very difficult and very time consuming. So Reg’s plans I think are gonna be very interesting CX Q, well, hopefully not right away, given that this is full much later.

[00:05:10] But still, I think it’s something we should think about how our employees are involved and what our long term plans are, at least from an equity standpoint. But why don’t we just go and talk with Reg. You’re gonna really enjoy this.

[00:05:24] Hey Reg, thank you so much for coming on the show. We’ve been chatting away just now getting ready for getting started and I am really excited to talk to you. So thank you so much for coming on today.

[00:05:37] Reg Zeller: Of course. Thanks for having me. We’re supposed to probably record a little earlier, but then 35 minutes later of chitchatting, this is what I do. On the scale of 1- 10 on extroversion where I’m a 73, I just never shut up. So I’ll try and not make this go too long for it.

[00:05:51] A.J. Lawrence: That’s the fun of doing this and I think it’s also some of the fun of being an entrepreneur. You get to do different things. You’re very much as an entrepreneur. That’s where I wanna start in asking you. Given all the stuff you’ve been doing in acquiring these companies as I was talking to the audience, and building up this huge following in the SMB Twitter space, where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur these days?

[00:06:17] Reg Zeller: So the easy way for me to think about this is I put in a lot of years in corporate and got to the point where I didn’t like the way things were being run. I thought that there was a better way to treat employees. I thought that there was a better way to treat customers. I thought there was a better way to run things, for lack of a better term.

[00:06:37] And I thought fundamentally that we could do it locally with manufacturing. And at the time, hardly anyone was doing it. Local manufacturing just didn’t exist, didn’t matter what part of the world you were in. And so for me now, I’m really thinking of my role as enabling and helping other people.

[00:06:55] Started that a little bit. I had a passion for small businesses and small local manufacturing. Literally grew up in a town of 3000 with one stoplight. So my buddies are beer truck drivers and plumbers and restaurant owners, et cetera. And so for me, with tailored suits in the corporate boardrooms, I never really fit in all that well.

[00:07:16] And at this point in time, my wife and I are lucky enough that we’ve done well prior even to being in small business. And the businesses have continued to do well. I’m sure that I’ve never really thought about it too much, but we could pack it all up, shut it down, and probably never have to work again, per se for money.

[00:07:36] But we like what we’re doing. And now, really the game for me as an entrepreneur I think is to go enable the right, say culture, and the way where people who aren’t in this space, ultimately, they can go be successful financially, personally, professionally, whatever it might be. And I’m in a little bit of that unique situation.

[00:07:56] We talked about this before where my wife and I were not going to have kids, pretty confident. My french bulldog is not gonna need to go to an Ivy League education. That extra money that I have there and what we’re doing, we’re building this ultimately, and my executives are gonna inherit it, them and their families.

[00:08:13] Everybody that’s gonna help us build it. We’re not taking any of it with us. And the concept right now is that we’re gonna stick that into trust. So the idea will be, this will be a generational wealth, just not for my generations. And so I literally think every day I just wanna go build something really great.

[00:08:30] I want to impact what we’re doing in the industry. And so for me as an entrepreneur, I need to make decisions that maximize the value of the company and maximize the most impact to our folks that work for us. And then helping out and enabling customers sort of build product and make things.

[00:08:47] A.J. Lawrence: That’s really cool because you have this long term vision, yet the same time, very different from, I’ve had people come on who talk about family trust and family business building and all this. So this is really interesting.

[00:09:01] How do you think this has changed? Cause we were chatting a little bit earlier. You bought your first company after being in corporate, bought another one, you’ve did it, you had some issues, and then you found a really great operational partner. And now you seem to be on this, not a rocket ship, because that’s too often that tech startupy thing, but you seem to be in this growing long term set. How has your ability to make this stuff happen changed over the past few years since you’ve been doing this?

[00:09:32] Reg Zeller: And I’ve said this before, I’m a shitty operator. That’s the easiest way to say it. Done it, I’ve certainly had to do it. If you have to go ring the bell and do it as an entrepreneur, you have to. It doesn’t matter whether it’s playing janitor for the day or talking to customers or making sure that product gets out the door.

[00:09:47] It’s every single job and you have to do it. And it doesn’t really matter whether you’re good or not at it. I think now what I’ve learned is I’m totally okay with that. We’d referenced this before, but Josh Schultz, he came on six months-ish ago. We’d bought our first couple of companies. I hired someone else who did a great job of integrating those companies.

[00:10:06] He decided, almost a year ago now, that he wanted to go do other things and I had to jump back in very briefly and I saw, hey, we’ve got some major operational issues. Started talking with Josh and when I realized that path forward, I was totally okay passing off the president title. I have no issue saying that I’m not good at this. This isn’t what I like to do.

[00:10:27] I like to go buy businesses. I love ’em. The details now though, it is, when I had a conversation with Josh, it’s this crystallized in my head over maybe the last six months, but Josh said how much he loves doing operations. I love doing the other side of it, I hate operations.

[00:10:43] I love the strategy and buying businesses like I mentioned, but I’m able to give Josh, for lack of a better term, he’s great at what he’s doing, but I’m able to give him that opportunity. He can go do anything he wants. This is his sandbox. He’s free to make mistakes. He’s going to, I know it. We have those conversations though all the time, and he’s completely fine with, we have that conversation right up front of it’s gonna take a lot of work.

[00:11:07] I think about it where I put in a ton of work through corporate, the financial risk is 100% mine. The financial upside is 100% theirs. Like I mentioned, that is not a situation that is lost on any of my executives for sure. They’re very appreciative of that, or at least I think they are. We talk about it, but I think at this point in time, it’s just being comfortable with who I am.

[00:11:30] There’s some people, and I talk to other business owners, they can’t believe that I’d actually give up decision making responsibility or authority, but Josh and I had that conversation like, Bro, I don’t want to do this. I want to be able to be the outside observer. If you run into problems, I wanna be able to give you advice that helps.

[00:11:50] Same thing with not just Josh, I’m using him as a reference, but any of the rest of the executive team as well. I wanna be that kind of outside person, that can be an idea guy. Someone you can bounce something off of the, Hey, we’re thinking about it this way, what do you think? And so that’s weird feeling like almost like this sage advisor.

[00:12:09] What I just explained as I think that about this in my head at 42 years old. But that’s the role that I like to play. And at the same time, Josh has a great line about this. By him being that shield, that firewall between me and the day to day, like a furnace goes down, or this breaks, or this customer’s pissed or whatever, I don’t pay attention to it. It doesn’t matter. That’s him and his team. He’ll take care of everything.

[00:12:30] And I just have to worry about ensuring that we go buy the right businesses and continue to grow it. And so for me, my world is completely changed in that I no longer run a company. And we knew we did that on purpose because the company is so much more valuable, knowing that if I get hit by a bus or we decide to sell, any potential buyer, which I don’t think we’re ever gonna sell, but something happens to me, this company can live on.

[00:12:55] There’s people at every spot. There’s backups for people at every spot. We’ve got a sustainable business that Josh and team are building right now for us to be able to scale. I think I’ve given you rough numbers, but call it a little less than 3 million in sales to the first one to over 15 million in sales currently.

[00:13:13] And we expect in five years we’ll be somewhere in the 75 to a 100 million in sales part. And the systems and processes that Josh and team are building right now are going to allow us to scale that. You put me in there, we’d probably blow it up again at 20 million or 25 or 40 and it doesn’t really matter.

[00:13:30] But these guys are great at what they do and I suck at that. I just see myself as that enabler and trying to go build the right thing and ensure that the culture and strategy and the overall goal of this long term is what we achieve.

[00:13:43] A.J. Lawrence: That I think is one, is very important, but rare. I know, and I joke sometimes the faster my company grew that I, the last company I sold, the more my ego did it. And some of it was because monkey see monkey do. I would see other entrepreneurs and they were in control of the world and we’re taught that.

[00:14:03] Yet it’s any type of martial arts, the harder you hold it, this, it’s like you gotta be soft and yeah, to have more impact. It’s that opposite impact that seeing from talking to entrepreneurs like yourself who has created successful businesses, it is that counter intuitiveness. How did you come to it? Did you see through corporate or wasn’t your experience in the first few companies you were acquiring and turning?

[00:14:30] Reg Zeller: Yeah, I guess those two things. One, I never fit in well at corporate. I love my autonomy. I would work whatever number of hours it took, as long as it was on my terms. But if you tell me what to do, I’m going to bristle and have a major problem with it. So that’s just the way I work and people, I think generally speaking, did make it work in small businesses and I think that’s our entire executive team right now.

[00:14:56] I have to give them autonomy. I did it in corporate when I had teams there. You have to let them make mistakes. You can’t do all the work yourself for sure. And at the same time, you don’t grow your people when you do it that way. And so I would say it started there, but then it just became totally okay with me.

[00:15:16] I heard guys like John Wilson talk about this as well, where he took a small company over and has grown it substantially similar in scale and timeline to what we’re doing. But he is admitted to, I’m gonna be good to a 100 people or something and then I’ve just gotta give up control. And I’m purely that way.

[00:15:36] I think the part that is the hardest to do, you learn multiple times as an entrepreneur at the very beginning. You go buy a company or start a company, everything looks really great and then you get hit with something you didn’t expect. Doesn’t really matter. For me, it was a piece of equipment broke down that allegedly had been being serviced forever after buying it.

[00:15:58] Found out it hadn’t been serviced in probably 3, 4, 5 years, and it was like a $27,000 fix and I almost freaked out. That’s the day that my wife happily sleeps really soundly, but I was pretty much on the bathroom floor curled up in the fetal position thinking like, Oh my God, what did I do? I’ve just cost us millions of dollars and I’m $27,000 poorer than I was three hours ago.

[00:16:25] Now, big deal. I mean, you learn to deal with that stuff at the same time, but it’s now about my people doing those same things. Like I learned those lessons. I made mistakes. I cost us a $100,000 the first year because I screwed a bunch of stuff up just in one time, like one probably two-week period.

[00:16:42] I have to be okay with my team doing that exact same thing. So I’ll be there. I’ll provide advice, I’ll provide my input, but that has to be their decision. If I’m the one ultimately that keeps making these decisions, I’m not building a company that’s going to last. It’s that old adage, right? Once you kinda learn it, you tell somebody. Here’s something, show ’em something. But once they actually do it, and that’s where they’re learning and that’ll be okay.

[00:17:08] I know we’ve made some decisions in the last year that are going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know, it’s cuz I’ve done it. I know exactly what’s going on and I said, be okay with it. Yep. And I’ve made a million dollar mistake in my business before.

[00:17:23] Some point in time, Josh or somebody in the team is going to make a million dollar mistake as well. And I have to be okay with it. I hire people to do a job and now I have to give ’em the autonomy to go do it, cause they’re gonna learn from it. I paid a lot of tuition, as I call it, in the mistakes that I’ve made. They’re gonna do the same.

[00:17:39] It just is what it is. Ultimately, we’re gonna have a much, much stronger, much better company by doing that.

[00:17:45] A.J. Lawrence: Into that line, the company would be better. But you’ve had to make in you making those mistakes and then figuring out how to survive and change from that. Something tells me the $100,000 mistake you made versus the $100,000 mistake an employee can make now they’re gonna have different impacts on the over ongoing abilities of the company because of your ability to learn from those first ones. Someone will, it sounds horrible to say, but yeah, you want to build a company that can have a million dollar mistake. Forget the 8 figures.

[00:18:20] Reg Zeller: I prefer not to make it, let me tell you cuz I almost had a mental breakdown. I actually talked about this on our podcast in January. Yeah, like we had, it’s hard. We’ve been in it five years to tell people this all the time. The first 18 months of business ownership is miserable. It’s one step forward, two steps back, four steps forward, three steps back. You’re constantly fighting everything internally, externally. It’s just crazy.

[00:18:48] And then you just get used to it and that’s part of the big thing. Now, the same thing I tell, we had 160 some thousand dollars check and we didn’t remember what it was and I couldn’t for the life of me remember. I’m like, man. Accountant’s like, what was this for?

[00:19:00] I’m like, no idea nine months ago. That’s not about the money. That’s just, it’s a cost of doing business. You just get used to it finally. When you’re doing it in corporate, you didn’t track everything you did. It’s the same. Eventually it becomes the same, and hopefully employees realize, because I’ve screwed it up many times.

[00:19:15] I talk about it, I admit it, but they know I’m gonna fix it. That’s on me, right? Like I had a bad business purchase. The only way to fix that business purchase is for me to go buy another business that we can help provide scale with that. It’s the only option. So I have to go do it, but I hold up to ’em like, Hey guys, I made a million dollar mistake, but don’t worry, I’ll fix it.

[00:19:32] I’m doing it right now as we speak. I will go find something and that’s the attitude I want them to have. I want them to take risks. I want them to make mistakes, learn from it, but then go fix it. Okay, Hey, I made this, but here’s how I can go rectify that. If we can build that throughout our organization, that would be almost my number one thing.

[00:19:50] Other than working together as a team making things work, if people can take that personal responsibility, be like, yeah, I’m willing to take risks and if we mess it up, we’re not going to sink the company but we’re going to go make it better in the end. That would be one of my favorite things I could ever hear from a, that’s the classic culture of CaneKast. CaneKast is the name of our holding company that kind of is over everything. But I’d love that as our culture.

[00:20:13] A.J. Lawrence: That is really cool because I think a lot of times we talk about, Oh, you gotta make mistakes. And then out of the Facebook era came make mistakes fast and all that. But the reality is not the mistakes. It’s sad that this is so obvious, then figure out what to do. It’s the learning aspect of it and the solving of that problem that the mistake made.

[00:20:36] I love it when I have people on my team who just go and like, All right, we’re gonna go figure this out. Oh no. And you ask me crazy when other people are like, so what do I do? And then what do I do? And then what do I do? And when I do it, I’m like, I have no clue. I started doing this stuff before Google so you know.

[00:20:56] Reg Zeller: I have no idea, that’s exactly right. I’ll tell you. So if you look at my company 12 months ago, and you look at my company right now, Josh has brought in all these no code tools. We’re switching ERPs. He’s figuring out how to grab that.

[00:21:09] First of all, I’ve still never written out a check in my company over five years. But at the same time, I barely know how my company operates right now. Once the new ERP goes in, it’ll be my last step. But everything’s on Slack, Notion, Clickup, this, that. It grabs stuff. It puts it together. Everything runs through Air table.

[00:21:28] I didn’t know what AirTable was. I’m like, Oh geez, we’re in corporate. They’re like, Oh, these are no code tools. You didn’t really have that because they had different custom. I’m like, okay, whatever it is. But that’s awesome. It’s gonna make our company so much better and I have no clue. But that’s the thing.

[00:21:44] And when Josh started was the same thing where ab, hey, I’m thinking about this, I’m trying to get your input. What do you want? And I’d give him, and I’m like, Okay, but what should we do? That’s not on me. I’m like, that’s on you. That’s your decision. I’ll hold you accountable for making that decision, that’s my job. But your job is to make the decision and go live with it, implement it.

[00:22:03] He said, You’re really not, You are really serious about this autonomy thing. I was like, Yeah, I’m really serious about this. And so it’s awesome. He’s embraced it and he’s done a just a fantastic job like I expected. Expert operator, far superior to me. Like I’ll see it over and over again.

[00:22:19] I suck at operating and the guys that are good at it, I love seeing it. I love operations to be on the outside, like strategically, Hey, we’re gonna go do this. And then watch him crank that wheel and make everything better. I absolutely love seeing it. I just don’t want to be the guy doing it, want nothing to do with it in any way, shape or form.

[00:22:36] A.J. Lawrence: It’s so funny you say that because I told a friend of mine, he has own company, I love being a far sterile operations person. I love, like you said, I’ve got my ass kicked enough and I came up through programming and accounting and project management so I know how it should work. And when you see that flow that happens once and you’re like, look at it. To be there, it’s not elegant making it happen. It’s just really elegant watching when it happens.

[00:23:08] Reg Zeller: Exactly, yeah. But this is, again, this is part of the reason we could talk about why we initially bought foundries and all that. But I have a fundamental concept of how the company needs to be. I don’t want to get it there, but I have what Josh is doing.

[00:23:23] We need to have processes, Josh calls it. We built one company that’s really good. It is a best in class. If you look at output per person, any other metric we think about, phenomenal. But now we can’t run one company, four different, five different, 10 different times like we’re trying to. We can’t run them in individually. We have to be able to run 10 companies but it looks like one.

[00:23:47] Essentially it’s running one company with just a bunch of iterations. And that takes processes, that takes people, that takes systems, that takes all the stuff these guys are really good at. And I mentioned before, it’s the company right now, put a number on it, 8x, 10x, 12x EBITDA.

[00:24:03] We’ve talked with private equity guys cuz now that we’ve done it, but it’s going to be just cuz they see what’s coming. They know Josh, they’ve seen the work that he’s done. They understand what we’re going to do. I don’t want your money for sure. I’m not coming back to get money.

[00:24:15] I’m not looking for a boss. I’m not looking for a job. I’m really happy with what we’re building. We built the hard part and it’s impossible. That’s why I love where we’re at. Even Micro PE, this stuff is too small. It’s just hand to hand combat. It’s like a knife fight. In the places we live, buy a 2 million in Sales Foundry. You can’t get it.

[00:24:33] You have to do what we’re doing. We’re training people. We’re the only ones in the game. There’s no other way to do what’s happening. And there’s a lot easier ways to make money than going to buy a small foundry, I promise. It’s great now at scale, that’s a different story. But I tell everybody good, just go find your own niche that you’re willing to put time in. Don’t do it in foundries.

[00:24:52] There’s a lot of other plays, a lot of other small manufacturing, a lot of other things you can go do. Plus, let’s be honest, you do not want to go face Josh and team head to head in this. That’s not the game you want to go play. Like we help people, but we’re so far down the path right now and just you’ve gotta go find your own niche and figure out what it is that you like to do and how you wanna do it.

[00:25:11] A.J. Lawrence: One of the things I was telling the audience, and I’ve had guests talking around acquisition entrepreneurship, you’re obviously one of SMB Twitter holds you up and I’ve listened to your interview on Acquisition Anonymous and Gridley and a bunch of the others. But like your transition from corporate to acquisition, I think that could really help some people understand what that space looks like.

[00:25:36] Cuz I’m looking to go back in through this path and the vocabulary alone is willing to like make me wanna take a gun. So walk through what was going on from corporate to Okay, I’m gonna do this.

[00:25:51] Reg Zeller: Some people think of entrepreneurship, buying a business, starting a business, whatever, and they glorify it. There’s other people like myself where they realize they just can’t spend any more time in corporate. It was, and my quick story is, I just ran into a terrible boss, absolutely hated it. The Sunday scaries were a real thing. Weekends were a nightmare. Working a ton of hours, getting yelled at all the time, didn’t really matter.

[00:26:13] It just wasn’t gonna be my life the rest of the time. I thought they were doing a lot of dumb things to begin with so I had to get out. Like I had no other option because I couldn’t stay in anymore. So with that kind of preface, our real simple thing in the US especially, depending on your audience, we have the SBA program, which the key to that is that it allows you to finance Blue Sky.

[00:26:35] To be clear, when I started this process, I couldn’t spell SBA, much less know what it was. I didn’t know what ETA was, I didn’t know what a search, none of this existed six years ago. Or maybe it did and I just didn’t know, either way. But the simple answer was I knew roughly what I wanted. I’d worked through a lot of different roles in corporate, literally everywhere from engineering, product management, M&A, kind of general management of running businesses.

[00:27:03] So I knew a general idea. I had this, now the word is thesis. That wasn’t the word that I used back then. It was just the idea that we could make small manufacturing, local small manufacturing work by doing a few simple things – calling customers back, ensuring inventory was on the shelf, making a quality product, delivering it on time.

[00:27:23] Just real basic, no problem type stuff. And then I knew there’d be some holes in that because corporations were continuing to buy from large overseas manufacturing when they really shouldn’t have been. It was terrible, and I was living through it. So I just came this general idea, and then I started looking and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew I had to get out.

[00:27:45] I knew roughly what I wanted. I hadn’t really thought about location. I was willing to move wherever and stumbled into a business. Again, the key to remember is I hadn’t looked at how you finance a business. I had no idea. I didn’t know what it really took or run a small business. I had no idea. But started asking around, had seen these businesses, found one that was being sold by a husband and wife.

[00:28:11] His dad had started it 50, 60 years before then at the time and started talking to. And again, none of their kids wanted it, so it was a classic third generation. Nobody wanted it. They were successful. Got to know them a little bit. They really enjoyed the story. It was connecting as much on a personal level as anything.

[00:28:31] Talked to the broker and they said, Hey, they’re preapproved through this SBA process, which I’ve now learned is total bullshit. There’s no concept of that. It’s just somebody had looked at it and then that broker, their broker firm got a kickback from the bank that they went to by steering me their way.

[00:28:47] But I talked to an outstanding banker and he just said, Hey listen, it’s not that big of a deal. Like you go take care of the business side, we’ll figure out the financial side, the funding side, whatever. His plan on probably cutting us a check for about 10% of the purchase price, that’s it. And he’s like the rest of it, it’s gonna be a lot of paperwork, a lot of other things.

[00:29:08] Hoops we gotta jump through. But you go focus on the business, we’ll go solve that side. And for me, it was like, awesome. The bank was willing to gimme money. I just assumed that was gonna be taken care of. Boy was that an interesting assumption to make as I learned later. But he was right. It was a lot of hoops to jump through.

[00:29:22] But we started it and four months later I owned a business. I’d never stepped foot in a foundry before I visited the one that I bought for the first time. But everything else was just learning. As you learn as you go, you’re gonna make mistakes. It doesn’t really matter and everybody does. Cause you’re going to be, like I already mentioned, the 18 months of hell you’re gonna go through.

[00:29:44] But there’s also a ton of upsides. If you’re a golfer, you hit one good shot around. It keeps you coming back whenever it might be. But you go through it and then after a while you learn a lot. You’ll figure it out. As long as you’re okay though, knowing you’re gonna make mistakes. And as long as you keep those mistakes to a minimum such that you can’t sink the ship.

[00:30:03] Then for me it was, you jump in day one, and this is a transition. It was my last day on a Friday in corporate, I probably had $400 million or whatever it was in sales, and so that was Friday. Monday, first day in the new company, 2.7. Okay. So I didn’t have anybody to do financials, all of a sudden I became everything.

[00:30:25] Oh, there’s a question about melting metal and I don’t know what the hell, I don’t know. You just crank it up and melt. You pour, right? Oh, there’s physics to this that I need to learn. So yeah, so all of a sudden, osmosis, you learn a lot of that stuff because have to be willing to jump in and get your hands dirty.

[00:30:40] That’s the biggest difference I think, between corporate and small business. In corporate, there’s functions. Everybody has somebody. You can call somebody, you can call an expert in whatever. We need to do a $500 million acquisition and corporate big deal, you call the treasurer, they cut you check. Okay, you need to go look at environmental concerns. Great. You call the environmental engineer, they come and look at the property and do all your M&A due diligence.

[00:31:03] That’s just not the reality of small business. You do everything yourself. So as long as you’re willing to jump in and learn and figure it out over a small period of time, then you know, some people wanna stay there forever and that’s totally fine.

[00:31:14] I think a lot of people think of a lifestyle business as a negative term. I know a lot of people that are really happy doing it. There are people who love being in the weeds, being a foundryman, for instance. They want to go out there and work on it for 40 years and then sell it someday. No, not the greatest way from a transition plan, but that notwithstanding.

[00:31:33] That’s totally fine. There’s other people like myself that, hey, once I got in, quickly realized I wanted to grow it. And that’s your prerogative too. That’s the great part about owning it. You get to do whatever you please. And so for me, you and I were talking before this, I’m sure I’m spending 200, 300, $500,000 more a year than what I’d have to.

[00:31:52] I could be doing those jobs, but that’s not a sustainable company. That’s not a valuable company. Then I started hiring people. So my belief is, and how this kind of worked to jump ahead now, every time I make an acquisition I think about that excess cash flow is going to pay for the next key person in my organization.

[00:32:12] So when I made the second purchase, it was I’m now going to go hire the kinda operations tech-enabled person. Then after the third one it was, I’m gonna go hire a director of Ops. The fourth one was a controller. But every time we go buy these things, we don’t go replace the owner’s salary with general managers.

[00:32:30] We pair it down and we figured out how to run these things with more simplified version, but then that frees up enough cash that I can add to that next person to fill out my corporate team, if you will, kinda that executive team. And so now we’ve got experts in all those different places. So yeah, we could have made more money right now, but we’re also ability to scale.

[00:32:50] We could never be a $100 million company in five years if we weren’t doing all the things that we’ve already done over the last five or six. So for me, it’s always building for the long term. But again, it all comes back to if you’re willing to jump in and get your hands dirty and then start to figure it out, you’ll be successful.

[00:33:07] And again, you can do a lot of other things I didn’t know about. You don’t have to go write out a check for 10% or 5% or whatever low, you can go find investors. You can do, again, I didn’t know what ETA was or self-funded search, I just talked to a banker, wrote out a check, and off we went.

[00:33:25] So I think there’s a lot more resources. There’s so much stuff. Twitter and the books and the podcast and oh, what a cheat co. I had none of that stuff. No clue. Especially these guys and gals that are five years into it, I’m like, this is amazing. If I’d had this, I probably still would’ve made the same mistake, but I at least would’ve been told the stove was gonna be hot before I touched it.

[00:33:44] And there’s a ton of people that are willing to help too. So after you make the mistake, you talk to it. I’ve got, I don’t know, A hundred DMs probably on the same topic of people that are like, Oh my God, I made this terrible mistake. I was like, yep. Mine was three and a half times larger than yours. I lived through it. I think you’d be all right. Welcome to the show, kid. Time to put on your helmet. Go take a bat.

[00:34:02] A.J. Lawrence: No, it is so true. It’s like it is both incredibly complex and yet straightforward. It’s just lots of little things that constantly need to be banged away at and that willingness to be like, Okay, I did this yesterday, but now I’m gonna do something completely different.

[00:34:21] Reg Zeller: Yeah. A small business is the best way to not have an ego in the world because every decision that you make can somehow figure out a way to turn around and kick you in the teeth. It’s like in these small businesses, it’s just, you just have to learn to be okay with getting punched in the face and then turning around the next day and smiling and coming back to get punched again in the face.

[00:34:37] It’s just get used to it. So it’s awesome, but it just is what it is. It’s certainly not this glorified aspect that people would like it made out to be like, Oh, I’m gonna start a company and become a billionaire. Maybe, I doubt it. But more likely you’re gonna work your ass off for two years and yeah.

[00:34:58] A.J. Lawrence: Someone told me he started his cuz he thought he would be able to fly private jets and I was just like, something tells me. You know, that’s- though I said it was more likely, who’s the guy? There’s the broker who’s always active on the SMB Twitter stream who does deals out of Texas, who’s constantly fury. Fury. Is that right? Something he’s constantly, he’s like, Oh wait, and my flight and here’s how. Yeah. And I know there’s a few others just the guy who bought the fly magazine, all that.

[00:35:32] Reg Zeller: Yeah. So it’s a little different talking couple hundred thousand dollars single engine Cessna and a $8 million PC 12 or whatever. He flies himself around and don’t think getting flown around, that’s not typical to get flown around in a small business. At least none of the guys that I know.

[00:35:50] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, I think they’re very few in there. And the few people I know who ever had, when they lost their companies, and this is more from like the VC-backed world who got big enough, they haven’t flown again except as other people’s cast on that. No wait, you’re vc, you get that billion dollar or close to there. Maybe? But other than that, yep. Not happening.

[00:36:16] Since you are looking at how to create this, you’re looking at how to add new businesses, which give you new capabilities more from a talent, at least from your description and stuff. Are there things you’re working on as an entrepreneur these days? Are there skills or thought processes that you are trying to get better at since you’re not that part, what’s that term, you’re working on the business. Even though what you’re doing is even a higher level working on the business type of part. Are there things you’re working on though for your capabilities?

[00:36:52] Reg Zeller: There’s a ton of personal stuff, whether it’s simple learn Spanish or stop sucking at golf. That’s some of the stuff that I enjoy right now.

[00:37:02] But for me, biggest thing is figuring out how not to jump in. And that I think for most entrepreneurs is really hard, especially after you’ve had your hands and everything. I talked about the autonomy a lot, but the biggest thing is actually checking out. Because there’s two really important things that I play to our company right now in addition to some of stuff.

[00:37:25] One I talked about, I need to have a clear head so when our folks do have questions, I can think about this objectively and not get emotional about it. This is not typical for me. Like I am very much a give me about seven pieces of information. I’m going to think through it very quickly, make a decision, and we are going to be marching immediately.

[00:37:48] That is the way that I normally operate. My wife will tell you this, even when she just wants to talk about stuff, I assume I’m solving a problem, that I’m going to provide actions and we’re going to go do it. Not really the case, but here we are. So I’m trying. That’s far and away one of the largest things that I need to figure out.

[00:38:08] The second part, somewhat related, is that kind of with that emotion is that for me, it annoys me when things don’t go the way they should, for lack of a better term. And this comes back to the allowing people to make mistakes and being okay with it. And at the same time, an emotional intelligence of maturity, however you wanna look at it.

[00:38:31] I couldn’t have done this 10 years or 15 years ago. There’s just no way. I would have flown off the handle way too many times. It’s happened a few times when we, I’ve told this before so I apologize, but the quick version is we bought numerous companies last year at the same time, we broke some of our processes by changing things in our financial software.

[00:38:57] At the same time, commodities were increasing at the most they’ve ever done in the history of these markets since maybe not ever, but as long as anyone that’s currently in businesses are around would say. And it got to the point where I actually stood on stage and said, Yep, we know it we’re blind. We broke this, but it’s okay. I understand the business well enough, it’s not gonna be a problem.

[00:39:24] Fast forward, not even a month, we’re talking weeks, and we had a year in review with the control or the director of Ops, Josh, the president, et cetera, and they told me what they were doing. I was like, Guys, I don’t understand. These numbers don’t make sense. We just talked about this in November. And they told me something and I knew it immediately.

[00:39:43] I knew exactly what they were doing. We were giving people blanket POs for nine months. We were pricing product, we were so much lead time. And we literally threw a million dollars on the table last year and litted on fire just because of our pricing and our policies.

[00:40:00] It’s a good thing I was driving in North Texas in a snowstorm. I was like having to white knuckle my way to Dallas to go meet some folks as it is. I was so pissed. I let my frustration out a little bit, but not anywhere near the level I would have. And that’s just what you have to get to, right? I gotta mature. I can’t always be a hot head that blows up. It’s very annoying to me, that was a problem we should have fixed six months beforehand.

[00:40:22] But at the end of the day, I’m the owner. It falls to me. It’s a team. I gotta hold them accountable. But what do I do? I was there, I saw the same things. They’re new people, they hadn’t seen it. I should ask some questions. I didn’t. I just assumed that we’d have changed it. Now I’m learning. For me, I don’t want to be involved, but I need to ask the questions that go through my head.

[00:40:41] So the things that are assumptions to me I know I need to vocalize, but at the same time, when things come back, I can’t get upset. I can’t be emotional about it. I just smack to this sage. I feel like an old man at 42 having this conversation right now. I just gotta be there for the team. It’s really about becoming a better version of myself, which ultimately becomes a much better version for the company. And I just have to check my ego about everything.

[00:41:11] I just can’t have an ego about this. It’s letting everybody else lead. Let everybody else get to the front, and I just need to support ’em and get out of their way. One, because they’re better at what they do than I am in what they do, but two, I need to provide just this right amount of input, not have an ego about if they choose or don’t choose what I’m doing and then not get upset and be okay with it.

[00:41:32] That’s not an easy thing. I’m not gonna lie, at least not for me, maybe some people are great at that. That’s not the way I’m wired.

[00:41:39] A.J. Lawrence: I like that a lot because I do think a semi more advanced entrepreneurial thing is, like you said, giving people this idea that they have to do. They have to figure it out how to do it, and you’re sitting there and the way you’re going about describing it, it’s one thing to tell people. Like as a ceo, you have to tell them where’s the direction? This is where we’re going. I’ll make sure you have enough fuel, which sort of sucks, but at least is doable.

[00:42:05] I like how you’re doing it more. The way you’re talking about is you’re not telling them, these are the things we need to make sure we do, and then you go figure it out.

[00:42:15] You’re telling them, these are things that I believe are important and these are the things. That’s what sounds like. That you’re spending more time talking about these are things that are important for us as this organization to pay attention to. Not pay attention to this, do this. That’s a fine line.

[00:42:33] There’s a much different output, especially given the type of people you have spent all this time and effort to bring on board. So I like that. That’s hard work to do that way. Telling people is easier.

[00:42:47] Reg Zeller: Yeah, that’s definitely. But I think the other thing that I’m having to work on a lot of is keeping focus.

[00:42:57] So we have this thing, and this is the worst part about it. By no means outta the woods, I don’t wanna make it sound like that. But I think our thesis in how we’re doing this and the path we’re down and how far down this path we are, it’s all right in front of us. We have to go execute. I am a shiny syndrome human.

[00:43:17] Ooh, look, a squirrel. Like, you gimme a shiny object and to keep me going a straight line is next to impossible. But that’s now my role. If we go off, and don’t get me wrong. There are a bunch of stuff that Josh and I are going to do eventually, and it’s gonna have unbelievably huge upside. He brought me this thing and right away I was like, Ah, here’s this, here’s that. We talked through it. I’m like-

[00:43:38] It was an acquisition outside of our existing space. It would’ve been amazing if it was 2, 3, 5 years from now and I did the exact same thing. Literally why I was in North Texas that time. It was going to be the next leg of our strategy, the next acquisition path we were going down.

[00:43:52] And both of those things, the one that Josh brought in, the one like, I did everything imaginable to talk myself in. After objectively knowing there’s no way we should be doing this right now, I did everything imaginable cause I love buying businesses. If you’ve ever done cultural index, I’m the daredevil.

[00:44:08] Like you give me something and if there’s not a problem, I’ll create the damn problem if we have to. But that was my big thing and I finally, I went through and I told Josh, I grown on this, I was figuring it out, I was thinking about it. And this is my new thing I found, like whenever I’m struggling with something, it’s either taking a really long shower or going out for a run.

[00:44:28] It’s one of the two ways I solve problems. So I went out for a really long run and about three quarters of the way through, when I could barely breathe going up a hill, it suddenly dawned on me like I’m literally doing the thing we can’t do. Like I have a set of things, need to stay between the lines, we need to go execute, go buy the foundries, figure this out.

[00:44:46] Once we get to those 10 places, awesome. We’re there. This thing will be kicking off plenty of cash to go play around and do other things. But if we screw this up, now we’re potentially going to impair the fundamental part of our business, and now we’re bringing in something else.

[00:45:02] I just can’t do it. For me, that’s the other thing, is really figuring out how I become the best version of what the company needs. Not just best version of me, but what does the company need me to do? And that’s the last thing that I’m really having to learn right now and that was probably February, March timeframe.

[00:45:20] So it’s a constant work of art. And then as we get going, Josh is like, Would you please get the hell outta here? I need you to stop muddling. Go golf, go on vacation, I don’t care what you do. Go work your 8-hour months like you’re wanting to do. Get out of here and let me and my team do the, I’m like, Got, got it. No problem brother. Have fun, peace.

[00:45:41] And so I do feel guilty a lot of times, but I realize, hey, that’s my role right now. And Josh is, these guys are grinding on this stuff 10, 12 hours a day and I’m figuring out how I’m gonna recover to go play another 36 holes the next day. That’s their job, this is my job. So it’s what the company needs me to do.

[00:45:59] I dunno if it’s maturing, I want to tell myself it’s maturing. Eventually I’m going to but I think it’s really just that it’s proving the fact. And honestly, he was totally right when we said this. He drag me into some of this stuff end of last year, beginning of this year, I would’ve never bought the company we bought in Cincinnati. And that company’s gonna be a monster but I would’ve pulled away from it just because we had so many problems internally.

[00:46:21] We had the financial issue, we had this, we had that, you name it. There’s no way that I’ve been clearheaded enough. I’d have been, Oh, I need to jump in and solve this. I can’t go buy another company right now. And it’s totally wrong.

[00:46:32] It was totally right for them to shield me from it and make those decisions. So it’s been a good learning experience the last six months.

[00:46:39] A.J. Lawrence: Well that does bring up you’ve talked that you’re building this massive amount of value to pretty much just hand back to the people who helped you create it. Not hand back, but hand it to the people who helped you create it.

[00:46:52] You’re working on a way to get, when you reference repeatedly getting to the 10 foundries, getting to that 100 million revenue, since I have it just over a decade on you, the stuff you’re talking about is really big picture and really very difficult and hard. But it also sounds like there’s a lot more runway past that.

[00:47:11] What’s like the really big long, what’s your long game here for you? What’s the red’s long game?

[00:47:17] Reg Zeller: I always joke about this because classic Mike Tyson, everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face. It’s a version of this where, for me, I love doing deals. It’s gonna be so hard for me and this is going to be the last chasm that I need to jump across, but I know I need to do it and I need to do it sooner rather than later.

[00:47:40] I need to go hire somebody to do deals for us. I need to go bring somebody in. Maybe they’ll have experience of actually how to, the dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s of doing deals. But right now, if something happens to me currently, who’s gonna get us to acquire the next 20 companies to build our 10 locations?

[00:47:57] There’s nobody. And that, that sucks. And it’s my last thing I need to do now that Josh is running this stuff, is I need to go find the financing, which I’m actively doing right now. Debt only. I own a 100% of the equity. I will not go take outside money. And so it’s been a bit of a challenge to do that, but then I need to go hire someone.

[00:48:15] And so for that point in time, then I just become the pure strategy guy. Josh and I have talked a lot about this. There’s a lot of things that we know that we want to go do, it’s called Ancillary, Js & Cs et cetera, to the foundry industry. But it’s still along that exact same path of we want to provide opportunities to not just the executives, but to all of our folks in our organization. People that this should be, it might not be generational wealth like what the executives are talking about, first generation immigrants or people that have made mistakes gone to prison whatever it might be like.

[00:48:57] We’re gonna give them a path to have a $100,000 blue collar jobs and figure out how we change that. That is, that’s life changing for them and their kids and their families to come. Hopefully that gets them to go, I don’t think it’s just the college path, it’s other trades. They can be plumbers, they can be HVC people. Hopefully they become business owners, whatever else it might be.

[00:49:19] So ultimately everything’s gonna be grounded in that. And I think that we’ve got a unique set of experiences and I think as we build this out, we’re gonna have a unique business model, process, systems, that we’re gonna be able to go drop on the top of just about anything.

[00:49:37] It doesn’t matter. Pick, I don’t wanna name it cuz then I’ll have a rushed to everybody trying to get out in front of Josh and I doing it cuz they know we’ve got a few years to go solve this. But it’s gonna be in that space where we can go do other things in the same, but it’s just gonna be all.

[00:49:51] And again, like five years from now, or three years from now or whatever the number is. But we’ve got some plans on what we want to do and we’ll have it identified. And then by then we need to have all of these systems built up in advance such that when we decide to go do this five years from now, that this business can run completely on its own and I can rip the executive team out of the current function and now we go apply it to something new.

[00:50:18] But everything else exactly the same. And you and I talked about this earlier where I’ve got this whole group of holding company roll up, et cetera. There’s like a 10 of us on this thread and now we’re doing this whole code conference thing as well. But it’s just a ton of people and it’s unbelievable. Whether you’re looking at Kelsey’s eCom business or John’s Plumbing HVC, Rich Jordan was in there as well.

[00:50:40] I’ve got guys in Cabinet and Wood. There’s other guys that are running tons of different, like what Darrell or Chase or any of these guys are doing, it’s totally different. But 90% the same. You think what? Like Stephen Olmon is doing some crazy stuff and a bunch of different places, and yet the problems that they go through with small investments across tons of places, or guys like Justin Turner as well, like all these guys are doing all these crazy things that are totally different, but now we know they’re really similar at the back end. Now he’s gotta go figure out how to optimize that.

[00:51:13] And so go point this ship in another direction and just go do the same thing. And ultimately, my real big thing, I’ve said this before, is why I didn’t name my company with my name on it. I wanted a different company name, whatever it might be. But I think the small foundry industry, and there’s a lot of other small manufacturing in this country or similar that will not be in business if in 40 years or 50 years someone turns around and says, Oh, that CaneKast company fundamentally changed that small foundries and anything else we get into work.

[00:51:48] Hey, we’re still here. We’re still- someone could come in with a cocktail napkin idea and we can still make a product in this country. I love it. Or any country, doesn’t really matter, not just the US.

[00:51:57] Everybody’s gotta say the same. But that’s awesome, that entrepreneurial spirit to let someone have an idea and make something work, like I really want that to be our legacy. And again, I don’t care if my name’s associated with it, it means nothing to me that it hasn’t. I prefer it not to be actually, but I really want us to be able to help our employees and make something that changes it. That actually has an impact.

[00:52:19] I’ve always loved engineering and building things. I love transforming something. At the beginning of the day, it starts as ingot. The end of the day, a finished product goes out the door. I love that about foundries. I love that about all manufacturing. So I continue to enable that and use our systems and processes to get us there.

[00:52:35] A.J. Lawrence: It’s interesting because early in my whatever business kind of did, like someone was talking to me and I went and I donated and then I was like, Oh no, this just sucks. Unless you really can buy, unless you jump all the way to the big game, it’s like everything small, and it was just like, okay, this just looks like the most demeaning way to you know.

[00:52:57] You’re important, but you’re 24/7 objecting yourself. There’s two cool things when you were talking about sort of your long run, I love that you are looking at this concept of making it so you can look and go broader, almost so you have a concept of a story in your head or a piece of art or something that you’re building and it’s more that you’re just trying to get the pieces together over time to build this thing that sings.

[00:53:25] Especially as a bright, shiny object person also, I think a lot of times we have concepts of what can be versus what is. And to me the most beautiful things are when things are built. When I can get things, get the team, and we build something that actually I know can be versus the reality a lot of times. So it sounds like you’re building something or can pull from many different, but the bright, shining city on the hill, a type of direction.

[00:53:54] But maybe more importantly, and there’s so many directions of craziness we can talk about, but like talking about how you bring the employees in, not just your executive team. Because like I remember with my agency, I went down ESOPs, I went down option packages and then virtual option or shadow options and all this.

[00:54:17] And I’m fascinated with Dows right now, except it’s a concept that needs a dash kicked a few more thousand times. But it’s overly complicated. The systems are so hard to bring employees into the sharing of value, but also the environment while also giving them that thing. It’s too complicated.

[00:54:40] Reg Zeller: Yeah, so I have a very clear belief on this and then there are some folks, let’s say there’s, let’s break it into two different pieces.

[00:54:48] There are the folks at the top understand right now, my executive team, they’re gonna inherit it. They get it, that’s done. They trust me, we’ll write it in, we’ll figure that all out. The other folks, generally speaking, they don’t have delayed gratification. So for us, we do it two ways. One, we provide to them a 401k where they get matched, they’ll hopefully save.

[00:55:08] We push that a lot, we match. Ensure that they understand all that piece without me getting into the fiduciary aspects of it that would cross lines. The other side though, and what we really try and do is we have incentive programs in place for all of our workers. Doesn’t really matter where they are.

[00:55:27] The executives get bonus based on our plant managers up through executives. They all get bonus based on the performance of the company as a whole. I don’t want people in fighting. And then on the line because they can control what they can control, they get incentivized to produce more product, more quality product.

[00:55:47] And so they see it, all the time. They decide they want to go home early, they’re not gonna get as much incentive. They wanna stay late, they’re gonna get a lot more, or they wanna really focus on what they’re doing, work more efficiently, bring up better ideas, whatever it is, they can make as much money as what their creativity and however we want to do it.

[00:56:06] And they see that on a weekly basis. So it’s not, we’re waiting for three months or a year, or in the case of the staff, the executive team, that might be five years or 10 years. And ultimately, my goal is once we get there, and I’ve told about this before, I don’t take hardly any money. I take literally the IRS mandated minimum in salary out of our company.

[00:56:28] That’s it. And then I grab some perks, like I bought myself a used vehicle two years ago, cuz my other one was 12 years old and was embarrassing for other people to ride around it. But beyond that, cause everything goes back in there. But once the bills are paid and we’ve got these 7, 8, 9, 10 places and our loans are either poultry or behind us or whatever it might be, I want the executives to get large bonus.

[00:56:54] They don’t have to wait until some magical event at the end. I want them to be able to take that money sooner rather than later and enjoy time off. I want our executives, by the time they’re early to mid-40s like I am, I want them to be able to choose to have to work maybe not eight hours a month because I’m not paying them to do that. But it should be a relaxed lifestyle.

[00:57:17] They’re gonna build that and want them to have that sooner. So that’s kinda the way I see that, is that the closer to the front line, the more we need to pay today. But also at the same time, provide things like 401ks and like the larger bonuses as well, such that they’ve got some of that upside delayed gratification.

[00:57:33] But then on the executive side, I see it the other way. They’re gonna need to build this, but once they build it, I want them to share in that wealth very soon, sooner rather than later. And then also long term, they know assuming we do it all right, their kids, their grandkids, their whatever are also, this is generational wealth for them.

[00:57:51] So it’s just kinda my thing. It’s just that short and long term to me, I think you have to constantly balance that. But the idea that they’re gonna have to wait forever to enjoy it makes no sense to me. I want them to be able to pay their houses off and go enjoy really nice vacations. And at the same time, just like how I am not important to the company other than buying places right now, they need to get to that same spot in five years or seven years or whatever.

[00:58:16] They’re gonna need to, they now need to go build all of their teams up and that has to be the next version coming out of this, such that it won’t be my choice. If they do choose to sell this place after I’m gone, they’re gonna get a lot more money for this place, if they’re not important.

[00:58:32] We just have to have that bench strength built out and they understand that. And so I force, or I will be forcing soon them out. I want them to take vacations. I want them to recharge. I don’t want them to miss all the time with their kids and families and friends. That’s why I left corporate. We don’t need that.

[00:58:47] Some of this is fun to work for. Some of this is great to build, but at the same time you don’t wanna abandon everything else. You don’t wanna ruin relationships like we were talking about before. This thing, it can happen, so.

[00:58:58] A.J. Lawrence: Oh yeah. And part of the fun of wandering the wilderness since I sold my New York City agency was Fortune 500s work for global whatever.

[00:59:10] You do something amazing and it’s an incremental percentage of a percentage improvement. Really what you’re doing is helping someone get a raise. You do that for nmb. And lo and behold, new people are working there. New companies, vacations, kids go to university. It’s a big difference, that type of impact versus, hey, my boss’s boss is now gonna get a extra $300,000 cause you guys rock the SEO.

[00:59:41] Reg Zeller: Yeah. Yeah. I still enjoy doing that. Yeah. We had a great, this happened March, April, something like that, I don’t remember, but we had one of our folks deliver an absolutely phenomenal month, plant manager. They told me about it and I was like, Awesome. I’m gonna screw this up but I think it was, I’m like, Give him a $10,000 bonus.

[01:00:00] It’s like his annual bonus, like just for the month, doesn’t matter. I want everybody else to realize you do a great job, you get rewarded. But that guy cares about his people and he’s worked hard and he’s figured it out and he’s hiring people against what he likes. He likes to get his hands dirty on everything.

[01:00:15] He got in there, he is hiring people to help him to make things better and by those people making things better, output’s increasing, and I wanna reward that behavior. But at the same time, that’s a great vacation or something for him and his family to enjoy immediately. That extra 10 grand rolling up in the company is gonna mean nothing for us.

[01:00:34] But to him, that’s a ton. The idea that the company needs to obviously make sure that we have the capital and what we need to do to grow, but beyond that, doesn’t need to be the old Scrooge McDuck bunch of gold coins swimming in the backyard type thing, if anyone knows that reference. I was gonna say, that’s probably a little after that was kinda right in the edge for me.

[01:00:53] But I’m sure there’s a bunch of young folks listening to this that have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. They have to go look up who Scrooge McDuck is and I date myself all the time. I mentioned a band the other day, it was funny. It was like, Wait, that was like from the ’90s and the ’90s is further away than the ’60s was when I was a kid. Like Uh-oh, I’m old. Shit. So you get that a lot.

[01:01:15] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah, I have a really great strategist I brought on for some of the projects we’re doing and I’m talking with her. We’re going on stuff and also I say something she’s, Oh yeah, that was right before I was born. I was just like that dang. I’m talking about something. Yeah. I was just like, yeah.

[01:01:32] Reg Zeller: We had a full on debate the other day about who the greatest rapper was of all time and every single one that they named. I’m like, I’m not even sure I know who these people are right now, so come on.

[01:01:42] A.J. Lawrence: Come on. It all stopped with Mama Said Knock You Out. It all ended now.

[01:01:47] Reg Zeller: There you go. LL Cool J reference there. They definitely would’ve known who he was.

[01:01:51] A.J. Lawrence: My son has gotten so heavy, but he studies it. It’s like he goes back and forth and he will compare. These people say that the best rapper of 89 was this. These people are say, and I’m like, Okay dude. I just like listening to some of it.

[01:02:07] He’s geeked out so far, but sure. It’s like things change and creating an organization just to pull, this is like you’re creating an organization that you want it so it can keep changing its own and growing. Cuz yeah, no one’s gonna need X, Y, Z process even 10, 15 years from now. But if you have an organization that adapts and grows and changes, they’re gonna need adapted and growing X, Y, Z processes and deliverables, whatever iterations down the road.

[01:02:42] I just think it’s so cool how you’re talking about building this.

[01:02:45] Reg Zeller: Josh talks about meta systems and automatic feedback loops and automatic correcting organizations and all those things. And as soon as he and I started talking about this, we aligned right away because he loves the idea. He grew up with a family business.

[01:02:58] They grew, they sold it, but he loves the idea of changing these workers’ lives at every level. And he and I connected about that right away. But then he started talking about systems and he geeks out about systems. Like I geek out about strategy and buying companies. And I was like, This is perfect. But yeah, that’s him.

[01:03:12] Like this is all what he does and he’s incredible at it and he’s gonna do it. That’s my favorite part. He’s gonna drag this organization kicking and screaming into the 21st century, even if we’re already into the 22nd at this point in time. But we’re getting there.

[01:03:26] A.J. Lawrence: I know. It feels like, it feels the past couple years. Sure.

[01:03:29] All right. Since you and I were joking, there’s probably only about few thousand listeners who are ever gonna- no, we probably don’t have many listeners who are gonna need stuff from a Foundry, but if you do

[01:03:43] Reg Zeller: @RegZeller on Twitter is the easiest way to find me. I’m on LinkedIn, but quite literally most of the time I spend on LinkedIn is being offered an executive assistant job.

[01:03:52] So yeah, Twitter @RegZeller we do. We’re called Building in Public. For everybody that’s not familiar, we talk about wins, losses, everything else we’re doing. That’s the most important thing we can do. CaneKast is our company, c-a-n-e-k-a-s-t.com. Check us out there. There’s not a whole lot there unless you are a buyer of castings.

[01:04:13] But I think for us, it’s mainly, I love helping out anybody that I can. I’ve had so many people that have helped me. It’s the minimum, very bare minimum I can do to pay that forward. For anybody that’s interested in getting in there, have a passion for helping people get out of corporate. I don’t think that everybody should be an entrepreneur.

[01:04:31] Not everybody should own the place, but there’s a lot of great roles for people as number twos, threes, fours, tens, whatever in small business that corporate kind of brain washes you out of. But if you are that person, if you’re like me or you get laid off and whatever it might be, and you’re going to go into small business, I will do anything I can to help you.

[01:04:51] Dms are always open on Twitter. Happy to talk about it. And as you go through it, there’s a ton of resources, like we already mentioned, podcasts like yourself, the stuff that’s on Twitter, there’s lots of other places there. It’s just so many resources. But when you have that one off question, happy to help. Reach out.

[01:05:09] A.J. Lawrence: And I have to say, I’ve shot a few dms out to people saying, Hey, I would love to get you on the show, and who knows what filters I hit. But you responded pretty quick. I was like, I have to say you live it, You said right away, sure, let’s go.

[01:05:24] Reg Zeller: Yeah. Again, that’s that 8-hour work month that I put in that it’s tough to squeeze in between the vacation I got home on a Monday and the one I’m leaving for tomorrow. Last week was like fishing with my buddies, so this week is golfing with my different buddies. It’s hard to squeeze in all this time.

[01:05:38] I know I’m joking. It’s not quite as easy as I make it out to be, but at least it’s the running joke. My team thinks that I worked that much, but it is actually a thing and this has gone around and spread everywhere through my friend groups, work groups, et cetera. And Josh wrote an email to a customer because he didn’t like the answer he was getting.

[01:05:55] So went around them and sent to me and Josh wrote back and said, Reg is just a financial investor. He does not work in the business. I was like, I love you so much right now. This is amazing. You didn’t get the right answer from mom. Don’t go to dad. That’s not gonna help you at all. I was like, Oh, that’s incredible.

[01:06:16] My buddies think that is absolutely hilarious. They’ve nicknamed Josh "CGE" as his title as Chief Golf Enabler because they hadn’t seen me in two years cuz I was busy. So Josh has got a couple of nicknames he’s picked up, but he’s a phenomenal partner. I couldn’t ask for anything else.

[01:06:33] A.J. Lawrence: Finding Josh’s could be another, a whole ‘nother discussion avenue.

[01:06:38] Reg Zeller: That is true. That is a really good point. It is. That is a really hard thing to do. It’s unbelievably hard and I commend Josh a ton when he told me he is like, This is what I wanna do, and he’s like, I’m okay with it. He’s talked about it a little bit as well, some of the podcasts and whatnot, but he loves doing that.

[01:06:53] He does not want my job, I don’t want his job, and he’s totally cool that we both don’t have the ego. We don’t worry about it. It’s awesome and that, but it’s really hard to find. It’s working out really well for us. But I’d like to say that was some grand plan, but it was. He and I were the only two manufacturing guys on Twitter, and so we started chatting and I was like, yeah, this leads to that.

[01:07:10] He really wanted do it. I’m like, I have a better idea. How about instead of that, you just come work with us. I would love for you to partner up with me on this stuff. This would be great. That sounds really great too. The rest hopefully will be history and we’ll tell these tales in 20 or 30 years.

[01:07:24] A.J. Lawrence: I’m really excited to see what more you do.

[01:07:28] Go check out him on Twitter @RegZeller. It is great. His Twitter stream is great, guys. Just thank you so much for coming on the show today, Reg. I really appreciate it.

[01:07:38] Reg Zeller: Thank you so much for having me. It’s amazing. Really appreciate it. Thanks for the time.

[01:07:47] A.J. Lawrence: This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye bye.

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