On today’s podcast episode, you’re going to hear the story of a thriving fifth-generation family manufacturing business that is constantly reinventing itself.
I interviewed Adria and Aaron Bagshaw, owners of W.H. Bagshaw, a machining company in Nashua, New Hampshire, that started over 150 years ago!
For 135 years, W.H. Bagshaw produced the same type of metal needles and pins on ancient equipment until the company purchased its first CNC Swiss machine in 2005.
Since then, the company has modernized and acquired three other manufacturing companies, including its newest addition, a wooden baseball bat company, Walter Bats.
Those topics make this podcast a fun listen, but the best part of the interview to me was feeling the passion this married couple has for their business, the fun they’re having running it, and the way their personalities compliment each other so well.
Link to Graff-Pinkert’s Acquisitions and Sales promotion!
Noah Graff: Tell me the story of W.H. Bagshaw.
Aaron Bagshaw: We started manufacturing pins in 1870 in Lowell, Massachusetts. We are the fifth generation to be manufacturing pins and precision turned parts. In 1949, we moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, and we’re in that same location. We transitioned from the pin manufacturing to Swiss CNC parts and big precision turned parts (in 2005).
Graff: What caused you to buy your first Swiss machine?
Aaron Bagshaw: I had a stack of prints on my desk, and we were just throwing opportunities away because all we could make were pins. Citizen was our local dealer and they would call on us.
Graff: When did you join the company, Adria?
Adria Bagshaw: (Aaron and I) met on a blind date in 2000. Ironically, my first job out of college was as a supervisor of a machine shop. Just crazy to think that I met someone else in manufacturing on a blind date.
Aaron: I remember back to one of our first dates. We went to the factory, and I was on a scooter. And (Adria) was like, oh my god, this is crazy. This guy’s on the scooter going to the factory.
Adria: In 2004, we felt like the business was at a crossroads. He was bringing in an ERP system, and I’d worked with a number of them. So every night I was giving input, and we were problem solving together. Then when our son was born, I couldn’t go back in a part time capacity at my old job.
Graff: It seems like your personalities compliment each other.
Adria: Our skills are really complimentary. I would analyze things so much that I wouldn’t do anything, and Aaron maybe would go too fast jumping into things. So we balance each other out that way. We’ve just automatically learned over time that if I’m down, he’s going to pull me up and vice versa.
Graff: Tell me about one of the companies W.H. Bagshaw acquired.
Adria Bagshaw: in 2017, we bought Minnesota Ice Pick. We had been making the blades’ (metal) pick. The company was sourcing the blade from us, the handles from Maine, and shipping them to the Midwest.
(The owner) was ready to fully retire, so we bought rights to the equipment, the inventory, whatnot. It’s been great filler work. So if any of our employees are slow, if a machine’s down, they can pop over there and just make ice picks. It’s been great.
And where so many of our parts are obscure and hard to explain where they go, I think our employees love being able to explain that we make ice picks.
Graff: Tell me about the latest acquisition. The baseball bat company.
Adria Bagshaw: We had the opportunity three years ago to buy a wood lathe. Our son’s pitching coach was making baseball bats in his garage and needed to get out of that business to focus more on coaching.
I thought how hard can it be? We’re already doing the ice picks. We found that there are so many variations—models, weights, lengths, colors.
Graff: This is a B2C product, and everything you’ve done before this has been B2B.
Aaron Bagshaw: A hundred percent. We make it and we ship it, and it goes right into someone’s hands, and they can use it. On the Swiss side of things, everything we make goes into something else that helps that thing work. We never really get to see what that is in a lot of cases.
Graff: There is something satisfying about seeing people use the product you are making.
Aaron Bagshaw: Yeah, we had we had two young boys come in, and they designed their bats, and they were really beautiful. It was like Christmas for these kids. When they took them out of the packaging and the box, they looked at the bats and they said, “this is the best day ever!” It was just a magical moment.
Graff: Do you think the bats could be something that might attract your kids to go into the business?
Adria Bagshaw: It’s given them a way to get involved in the short term. We’ve made it clear to them that it’s an option for them, but it’s not an expectation of them.
Aaron Bagshaw: If you just leave that opportunity kind of hanging out there, I think that’s the best way for it to happen naturally.
Adria Bagshaw: I think they feel strongly that the company should stay in the family. They’ve got great questions. We’re having a meeting next month with a family business consultant that we’ve worked with before. We’re really excited for that.
Question: What is the best part of working in a family business?
For information about W.H Bagshaw go www.whbagshaw.com
For information about Walter Bat, go to WalterBats.com!