A Perfect Day

Sometimes I have a day when everything comes together and I have to say, “Thank you, God, for allowing me to experience it.”

I had one on May 7th. Noah and I had an interview scheduled with Eitan Wertheimer, Chairman of the Board of Iscar, the huge Israeli cutting tool firm that he and his father Stef built. They just sold 80 percent of the company to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway for $4 billion.

We got to the Standard Club in Chicago a half hour early, stepped into the elevator and Eitan introduced himself to us. He was ready to start the interview at 9:00 instead of 9:30, and we immediately began talking about Iscar, the sale to Buffet, his business career, love of cars, interest in education, the ups and downs of family business and a satchel full of other subjects.

Great chemistry. He wanted my take on business in North America, particularly the car industry and the woes of GM, Ford and the Tier Ones. I wanted to get his view of Israeli politics. He said that in business you can develop good people and work with them for a long time, but in politics you have no choice but deal with a bunch of difficult personalities.

He had advice for Noah about family business. The two of them seemed to hit it off immediately. Eitan’s oldest son is Noah’s age and is trying his hand at being an internet entrepreneur.

The interview lasted 75 minutes, and I felt like we could have talked for hours, but I knew that other people were waiting for a piece of his day in Chicago.

So we left the elegant, old Standard Club to prepare for our later interviews that day. Noah was preparing to talk to the twenty-something owners of Threadless, a custom tee-shirt company that is rewriting the business script of retail, and I was going to see the young entrepreneurs at Microlution, a machine tool startup on the Northwest Side of Chicago.

Microlution is making a CNC milling machine, smaller than a desktop computer. The next version of the tool will be adding a tool changer with the same kind of tiny footprint or, to be more precise, handprint. These young engineers worked on this stuff when they were students at the University of Illinois and are now translating it into what they hope will be a viable business. They are working on a big development contract from the Navy, they hope to sell four machines by the end of 2007 and 20 next year.

I think that they are doing something very cool. The current machine is potentially a design engineer’s best friend because the engineer could make prototypes literally at his desk by himself, skipping layers of bureaucracy and enormous tooling expense in a traditional big company setting. The engineer could make ten iterations of a component in a fraction of the time it would take to job it out or send it to a big company’s toolroom for prototyping.

I was impressed with their product, and I liked the way they think. I had a 5:00 p.m. reception for the American Israeli Chamber of Commerce back downtown, and I needed a ride. In a moment of inspiration I asked Andy Phillip, one of the brains at Microlution, if he would like to meet Eitan Wertheimer of Iscar. After a long moment of pondering his schedule, he said yes.

We stopped by his apartment in the city (he lives two blocks from Noah), so he could change into a suit and tie for the old school meet-and-greet for big shots at the Conrad Hilton on Michigan Avenue.

We walked into the reception (for the American/Israeli Chamber of Commerce) and saw Eitan Wertheimer surrounded by a gaggle of people. He immediately greeted me buoyantly and asked me if Noah was coming. I told him no, but I had another young guy named Andy Phillip that he had to meet. I briefly described the Microlution product, and then the two men started to talk shop. After 10 minutes they exchanged cards and promised to email. Then Eitan introduced Andy to several men from Pratt and Whitney, with whom he has a big joint venture making jet engine blades in Israel. One of the aircraft engine guys we met has 450 design engineers working under him.

I got a huge kick out of it. Will anything great come of the interviews and the matchmaking? It already has for me.

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5 thoughts on “A Perfect Day

  1. AvatarTyler Shinaberry

    Lloyd,

    You article correlates to a quote I discovered earlier this week. I was sitting in the college library reading page, after page, after page of redundant crap about how the human mind works, and how important it is to think critically. For some odd reason, a blurb stuck out to me. It was a quote from Noble Laureate Herbert Simon stating that the meaning of “knowing” has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to FIND…and…USE it.

    I don’t know the gentlemen from Iscar or Pratt and Whitney, but I have met the men from Microlutions. The key to their success is very simple. Rather than accept the norm, and repeat what the world has, they are able to FIND information… and use it to reinvent the term cutting edge technology. I am sure they found something from the others they met in your reception area.

    I am appalled at your ignorance to even ask if something will come out of the meetings. Did you not listen to me when I told you my Great Grandfather’s Rule of Thumb that made him rich? If a salesmen ever stops in (back then they were the inventor also), listen to what he has to say, he seems to think he is pretty smart… if you are lucky, maybe a little bit of it will rub off on you.”

    Ingenuity is contagious, but only certain people are blessed with the mindset to be infected. So I must ask you, “Lloyd, is it not obvious what happened in your reception area?” You put many susceptible minds into one room; whether it happens tomorrow, next week, three generations from now, or in a century, you created a creative setting that will someday lead to a change of some size, shape, or form.

    Be proud of what you do. I told you that you are more powerful than the richest man in the world because you have the power of the media. Maybe now you will begin to see what I truly meant with that statement; though I doubt you ever will fully understand. If we are lucky, Noah will realize it, but I highly doubt he will fully understand it. It is what makes individuals like yourself so special to the industry; you are powerful and don’t even know it.

    Tyler Shinaberry

     

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