Monthly Archives: December 2018

Barber School

By Lloyd Graff

Sometimes you can learn a lot from getting a haircut.

I’ve been going to the same barbershop for 20 years.  My needs are simple.  Same hair style since I was 12.  It’s a 15-minute trim.

My old barber, Ed, died several years ago, and his employee Erin bought the shop.  She inherited my head, I guess, and as a creature of habit I just continued the monthly routine.  I rarely make appointments with her ahead of time, preferring to call her when I know I have a free half hour.  She usually can fit me in on the day I call, but lately I’ve been having trouble fitting into her schedule.  She runs a one-person shop with an occasional helper coming in.  She does not work Sunday and Monday and is on a 9-5 schedule with Saturday ending at 2:30.

A couple of months ago I needed a haircut and had procrastinated until the last minute.  I was going to a wedding, and my hair was getting a bit sloppy.  I called Erin for an appointment for Friday afternoon or Saturday, and she told me she had nothing available.  I figured she could stay a little later or sandwich me in, and I requested that.  She would not fit me in, so I had to look for options.

An expanding Midwest supermarket chain had recently moved into the neighborhood named Meijer.  I had noticed on one of my infrequent visits to the store that it had a Great Clips barbershop that always seemed to be doing a thriving business.  I also needed to buy some strawberries and yogurt at the time and decided I would check out the shop.

The attitude was refreshing the second I walked in the store.  I was heartily welcomed, and the person who greeted me said she could cut my hair immediately.  I cruised into a chair, gave her my hair specs, and she pleasantly cut my hair, quite professionally, in 17 minutes start to finish.  The tab was $11 for a “senior.”  I was so pleased I gave her a $5 tip.  My cost at Erin’s shop, which was much more sterile than Great Clips, was $25 with a tip.

Erin, my barber, became my former barber that day.

As a student of business I understand how big chains like Great Clips and Sport Clips are killing off the small guys, and there is something sad about that.  But the clear fact to me after that first haircut in the Meijer superstore building was that I like this approach more than the Erin approach I had clung to.

I also realized that a small business like Today’s Machining World and Graff-Pinkert cannot afford to disappoint its customers, because they always have other options.  I knew this, of course, as a business veteran, but when it was demonstrated to me as a customer it had extra impact.

Erin has a real problem as a one-man band who wants a “life,” but as a client, I do not care.  I want my haircut when I want my haircut, and if I do not get it I look for another option.  If that option turns out to be significantly better for me she loses me as a client.

It is a lesson to teach employees who may take a cavalier approach to deliveries.   The customer has their needs.  The needs may conflict with your well-laid plans or unexpected breakdowns.  And they don’t care – nor would you.

Question: Do you prefer a private barber shop or a chain?

Share this post

Swarfcast Ep. 21 – John Saunders, Entrepreneur and Self-taught Machinist

By Noah Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with John Saunders.

In today’s podcast we interviewed John Saunders, founder of Saunders Machine Works and the creator of the NYC CNC YouTube channel. John is an innovative entrepreneur who lives and breaths CNC machining. When he was 24 he had an idea to sell an automatically resetting steel target for practicing firearms, but he had no engineering background, no CAD experience and no machining experience. After working on a prototype with a contracted engineer he decided that before he would pursue production of his product he wanted to fully understand the production process.

He bought a Taig CNC milling machine and put it in his one-bedroom New York City apartment. He quickly realized he was passionate about CNC machining and taught himself to use his machine on nights and weekends for two years. Using resources on the Web, instructional DVDs and New York’s MakerSpace NYC community he eventually gained the skills to machine a prototype of his automatically resetting target by himself. Since his first time experimenting with his Taig until today he has religiously documented his machining projects on YouTube and now NYC CNC has acquired over 273,000 subscribers.

Today Saunders with a staff of six employees, runs a machine shop in his hometown of Zanesville, OH. His company runs an intensive training course on machining and welding, and it uploads at least one YouTube video a week about machining. He also cohosts a weekly podcast where he discusses his challenges running a small machining business.

Question: What practical skills have you learned on the Internet?

Share this post

Football Breather

By Lloyd Graff

I needed a football weekend badly.  It had been a week of business travel, end-of-the-month tension, end-of-the-year push, and what I really wanted was to watch some competitive football on TV and forget about business.  Wow, did I ever get what I was wishing for.

First game I watched was Oklahoma versus Texas for the Big 12 Championship.  I wanted to watch this game for one reason.  “Who is this kid, Kyler Murray, playing quarterback for the Sooners?”

He didn’t play last year because Baker Mayfield won the Heisman for them and became the Number 1 pick in the NFL by the Cleveland Browns.  Mayfield threw the ball a million times a game, and Oklahoma scored 60 points just for the fun of it.  I wanted to know if Kyler Murray was the real thing or the next Tim Tebow.

Guys, this Kyler Murray is the real thing.  Against a very capable Texas defense he showed accuracy, passion, and phenomenal quickness as a runner.  Oklahoma beat Texas 39-27, got into the National Playoffs, deservedly, and Murray probably won himself the Heisman Trophy.  And the amazing thing is that Murray is also a terrific baseball prospect.  I foresee him as a Top Ten NFL pick, similar to quarterbacks like DeShaun Watson and Russell Wilson.  Loved watching that game, but it only got better.

The late-afternoon game was Alabama versus Georgia, #1 against #4 in the college rankings.  Alabama was last year’s National Champion, top ranked all year behind the “Throwin’ Samoan” Tua Tagovailoa, who was recruited out of Hawaii to play in Tuscaloosa.

Tua had put up amazing numbers all season and ‘Bama has been completely dominant, but Saturday Georgia was even better—most of the game.  The Bulldogs led by two touchdowns in the middle of the third quarter and had completely ruined Tagovailoa’s game with a brutal pass rush.

The back story for the Crimson Tide is that its coach, Nick Saban, who everybody loves to hate, except his players, had replaced Jalen Hurts, who had brilliantly led the team for two seasons, with the Throwin’ Samoan because he was a far superior passer.  But Tua couldn’t deal with the pressure Saturday afternoon and finally was forced out of the game with an ankle injury.  In comes Hurts to finish the game and come back from a seemingly insurmountable Georgia lead.

The rap on Hurts was that he was a lousy passer, but on this Saturday he threw like Joe Namath.  Alabama rallied, and Georgia crumbled.  With very little time remaining Hurts bluffed a pass and ran a quarterback draw play for the winning touchdown.  It was an incredibly emotional finish when the substitute, who everybody thought should have left “Bama when Saban benched him, embraced his coach who was almost in tears on the podium accepting the Conference trophy.  I felt like crying sitting in front of my TV in Chicago.  This is why I love football in December.

On Sunday the Chicago Bears played the New York Giants without their starting quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky.  The Bears are trying to go from last to first in their division and had an 8-3 record going into the game, but with Chase Daniel, a career backup at quarterback, against a team with a still-capable Eli Manning and Rookie-of-the-Year running back Saquon Barkley, in New York, it was going to be a tough game.

The Giants played better than the Bears, particularly in the second half.  With less than two minutes left in the game the Giants punted the ball to the Bears end zone and with fantastic athleticism downed the ball on the one-yard line.  The Bears were down a touchdown.  On the first play Chase Daniel throws a short pass to Taylor Gabriel.  The Giants defender punches the ball out of his hands, and the fumble is recovered by New York on the ten-yard line.

But the Bears did not give up.  The Giants played traditional safety-first football, figuring that a field goal puts them up 10 points, a seemingly insurmountable lead with one minute left in the game and the Bears with only one timeout.

This is FOOTBALL in the NFL.  The Bears took the kickoff and quickly marched down the field.  They were stopped deep in Giants’ territory and opted to kick a field goal to save time.

With less than a minute left, the only long-shot chance the Bears had was to try an onside kick.  Only 3 of 39 such kicks had been successful this season, but the Bears recovered the ball when the overrated, self-proclaimed Giants’ superstar O. J. Beckham, Jr., casually sauntered to the bouncing kick allowing the frantic Bears to recover it.

With just a few seconds left, the Bears moved the ball towards the end zone culminating with a halfback pass by the team’s star, Tarik Cohen, a 5’7” dynamo from Bunn, North Carolina, for a touchdown at the buzzer.

The Bears lost in overtime, but the comeback was fantastic.

I was still not totally footballed out, so I checked out the Sunday-night game, Pittsburgh Steelers versus the L.A. Chargers.  You watch this game because it is Phillip Rivers versus Ben Roethlisberger, both Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have weathered a hundred injuries and concussions but play with a passion that even a baseball nerd can enjoy.

It was another nutty game of two totally different halves.  Pittsburgh rushed Rivers like madmen early, and Rivers struggled, even though he has the fastest release in the game.  L.A. racked up two yards rushing in the entire first half and trailed 21-3.

Seemingly, the Steelers were exhausted after their brilliant start, and Rivers began a counter-assault.  Players on both teams were dropping like flies in the contest, but Rivers kept throwing, and his top receiver, Keenan Allen, kept catching (14 receptions).  Pittsburgh’s big lead melted, and the Chargers pulled ahead in the end with a winning field goal.

I was exhausted, but exhilarated.  I was looking for a football breather from real life, and this weekend gave it to me.

Question: Do you enjoy the violence of football?

Share this post