Author Archives: Ridgely Dunn

Marketing by Sharing Your Expertise, with Joe Sullivan

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Joe Sullivan, founder of Gorilla 76, a successful industrial marketing agency specializing in the manufacturing arena. My goal in this interview is to uncover the secrets behind effective B2B marketing. Today, anyone who owns a smartphone has the tools to tell the world about their company. But how do we use those tools to stand out from the competition and get new customers? 

Most of clients of Gorilla 76 are medium-sized manufacturers such as OEMS, capital equipment manufacturers, and software companies specializing in the manufacturing field. Generally these companies have marketing budgets ranging from $125,000 to $200,000 per year, but Joe says that smaller companies don’t need to hire an expensive marketing firm if they approach marketing in the right way. He breaks down a B2B marketing strategy into three principles.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

 

Create Focus

No matter what size your company is, you need to narrow your marketing focus to a few specific areas. If your shop makes products for 10 different sectors, you should focus your marketing on one of them or a select few. 

After you decide which customers you are marketing to, you need to identify which individuals at the companies most influence the buying process. Often this group of people consists of engineers or people in a shop operating equipment. After identifying your target audience, you need to research what they are trying to accomplish and what problems they are trying to solve. Frequently, Joe’s company gathers information by interviewing people at targeted companies, often on video.

Joe Sullivan, Owner of Gorilla 76


Create Valuable Content Assets

Once you know what your buyers are trying accomplish, then you are ready to create content that appeals to them, often in the form of blogs, videos, and podcasts. Content creators can consult experts at a company about various topics and then communicate their knowledge via a targeted medium. The main purpose of the content should be to help customers solve problems.

Video or audio content can be very powerful because the expert’s knowledge comes straight from the mouth of the source, which gives it clarity and authenticity. Video demonstrations have the ability show processes, which makes them an effective teaching tool.

Joe says marketers need to remember to show, rather than tell. Don’t tell your audience you’re the best, of which most businesses’ websites are guilty. Instead, tell visitors the things you provide for your niche and demonstrate you’re the expert.

Proactively Distribute Valuable Content to the Right People

After you produce great content, you have to find a way to reach enough of the right people. You have to proactively push your content in strategic ways so your target audience will find you. To do that, you have to first research where your customers often consume information online.

Joe says it’s important to remember that usually less than 5 percent of your customers are in a buy cycle at a specific moment in time. If your prospective customers are not in an active buy cycle and you are constantly shouting at them to buy your product, they will tune you out. Instead, focus on being helpful. Stop worrying about giving away your secret sauce to your competitors or being judged. Just help.

Question: Which blogs, videos or podcasts about the machining industry are your favorites? (Besides this one!)

You can find Joe Sullivan’s marketing firm at gorilla76.com and listen to his podcast, The Manufacturing Executive, on all the podcast platforms. 

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Starting a Machining Company is Hard, with Jon Perin

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the podcast is Jon Perin, owner and President of Perin Industries, a young CNC machining company in Webster City, Iowa. Jon, started Perin Industries in 2018, after a 12-year career as a hospital administrator. Like many entrepreneurs, Jon has had to face some daunting challenges. Starting out, he aggressively bought new state of the art CNC equipment to make parts for the medical sector. When he had trouble penetrating that market he successfully pivoted to fire arms work.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

When Jon Perin started Perin Industries in 2018, he planned on making parts for the medical industry. Early on, Perin Industries devoted a lot of resources to obtaining ISO 9001 and AS9100D certifications. Achieving those certifications was costly, so before the company could start the process of obtaining medical work certifications it had to start producing revenue. Also, Jon realized that medical customers prefer to work with companies who have established track records and experience, so he steered the company to work in more general industry. 

Jon grew up around his father’s screw machine shop and learned to run ACME multi-spindles in high school. His shop is right across the street from his father’s shop, which is now primarily managed by Jon’s sister. Jon attended college in Florida and after graduating went to work as a hospital administrator for 12 years. Working in the hospital environment played a part in Jon’s interest in making medical parts. Jon says he appreciates the manufacturing business’s simplicity compared to that of the health care field. He says it is easier to quantify success working in manufacturing because success can be measured by the quality of parts produced.

Perin Industries has eight full-time employees. In addition to managing the company, Jon does CNC programming and setups. He jokes that he is also the janitor. He says his employees are becoming more capable to perform setups, which will free him up to focus on more administrative tasks in the future. 

Jon Perin, Owner and President of Perin Industries

When Jon started his company, intending to do medical work, he purchased state of the art complex CNC equipment, including an INDEX C200 twin spindle/3-turret lathe he bought new for around a million dollars, and a Traub TNX65/42 twin spindle/4-turret lathe that he bought used for around $500,000. He says that after attending Design-2-Part trade shows around the US he concluded that the opportunities for Swiss work and traditional screw machine work were extremely competitive and dominated by established companies. This influenced him to invest in sophisticated turning centers.

After being unsuccessful in penetrating the medical sector, Perin Industries pivoted to the fire arms business, primarily making parts for Glock barrels and slides. Jon says that many companies produce the same parts using Haas machines. However, using his turning centers Jon can single-op the parts, making them in less than a third of the time as his competitors. Getting into medical work is still Jon’s longterm goal. He also aspires to one day buy his dad out, which would open his company up to many new types of customers.

Jon says he preferred to start his own company rather than go into business with his dad, but he says one of the main reasons he has been able to keep his startup company going is having good mentors such as him. Jon’s first year in business he made some costly mistakes, many of which experienced companies are also guilty of. Sometimes he took the wrong types of jobs, he bought equipment too early, and some jobs took him twice as long to set up than he had planned. Through it all, Jon’s father and another mentor have guided him to stay resilient. Jon says he’s grateful his company didn’t make enough bad decisions to fail. He plans to keep learning from the past and push forward.

Question: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you say?

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I See Opportunity

By Lloyd Graff

If you consume the newspapers and watch and listen to the daily media torrent, you would think Americans are living in bubbling misery. 

The existential threat of climate change, the border crisis, the catastrophic shortage of workers. I’m sure you could add a few more. 

But for me, admittedly privileged by being white, affluent, educated, and a Cubs fan, the United States of America continues to be an amazing place to live that manages to shift and sway whatever comes its way, despite the politicians and charlatans who thrive on the perception of an engulfing tar pit.

What do I see that they do not, or do not want to admit? 

I see opportunity. Almost every day, I receive an email inquiry from someone who has a small business or an idea, a backer, or a partner who believes in her. They want to buy a machine, or convince someone to help them. They often speak with a foreign accent. They have watched somebody else do it, or they may have already failed but still believe in themselves. 

The people I see are not usually well educated in the way that is normally described in the media, but they do know how to make something that other people will buy. They watch Shark Tank on TV, or they have a friend who sells stuff on eBay or Etsy. They know how to use social media and think they can make it work for them. They do not think their planet is going to burn up or the air will poison them, at least for the next 100 years they will live. 

They don’t seem to be phased by the immigration crisis, often because they are immigrants or their parents were. They understand why folks are wading across the Rio Grande River or sending their children alone on buses and trucks and squalid containers through Mexico to cross into America to take their chances. These people pouring across the border have a dream that life will be somehow better because they know people in Miami or LA or Topeka who are putting together a life for themselves. Maybe they use forged papers and a new name, but at least it’s a chance. They know it is better than the squalor in Cuba or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Myanmar. Wouldn’t you do it if you had no future as a woman under the Taliban?

America is a huge country. People still help each other, and the government affords opportunities to get help. Still, America desperately needs workers. Or, have you missed all of the help wanted signs for Amazon offering $17 per hour, plus college tuition and health insurance thrown in?

Why do we have this labor shortage as the COVID epidemic is fading?

Baby Boomers are retiring. Women have dropped out of the workforce because they are doing childcare or parents care. Legal immigration is a trickle because of COVID restrictions on travel and a federal bureaucracy which isn’t functioning. Of the 55,000 FY-2021 Diversity Visas which are supposed to be issued every year to people around the globe (the US annual visa lottery), only 14,000 were processed at the end of September. Perhaps illegal immigrants coming north could help fill the worker shortage.

You would think America is a mess from reading the New York Times or listening to the Fox News nightly fear-mongers. I doubt it is. 

Topeka, Kansas, and the state of West Virginia are offering $10,000 bonuses for people to move there. Does that sound like a country falling apart?

Question: Should the US increase future immigration?

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Running a “First Class” Cold Heading Company, with Joe Bennett

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Joe Bennett, Vice President of Sales at Seaway Bolt and Specials, a privately held cold heading company in Columbia Station, Ohio, founded in 1957.

In the cold heading process, coiled steel is cut into slugs, which are then hit multiple times, ultimately pounding them into a desired shape. The cold heading process is capable of producing several hundred pieces per minute. Some cold-headed products are net shaped blanks that are shipped to machining companies who then finish the parts.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

Seaway has historically focused on cold heading one product family, taper threaded pipe plugs ranging from 1/16” to 2” diameter. The pipe plugs are used in a wide variety of industries such as automotive, oil and gas, and agriculture, going into products like transmissions, pumps, compressors, and engines. Joe describes a threaded pipe plug as an inside out nut. It looks like a nut, but its threads are on the outside. They are produced by cold heading a blank followed by thread rolling. Seaway produces 100 million pipe plugs a year, exporting 30% of its production. A few years ago, the company decided it needed to make a new part family if it wanted to keep growing. Its team decided the logical course would be to cold head female tubular fittings to match its male pipe plugs.  

To cold head its pipe plugs, Seaway uses machines called nut formers. To make the new tubular parts the company purchased three machines called parts formers, which have the capability to make more highly engineered parts than nut formers. Joe says the new machines stand two stories high, have the footprint of three conference rooms and weigh 400,000 pounds each.

The used machines cost several million dollars to purchase and will take millions more to rebuild. Joe says National produced around 18 of the type of 1.5” cold heading machines Seaway purchased. GM was their original owner, buying them new in the 1970s. 

Prior to working at Seaway, Joe worked in sales for 10 years at a large cold headed parts distributor in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Six years ago, he took a job at Seaway because he preferred to work for a privately held, smaller company with around 70 employees, where he felt he could make a significant impact. 

Joe beams about Seaway’s philosophy of running the company with a “first class” management style. He and the company’s owner, Ray Gurnick, offered to cover a roundtrip plane fare for me to come to the company and interview them in person. I unfortunately had to take a raincheck.

Seaway pays 100 percent of higher eduction costs for its employees. The company has three holiday parties a year and regularly brings in food trucks to celebrate company achievements. It offers profit-sharing and gives regular bonuses. Its shop bathroom has been redone in marble. 

Seaway uses open book management, showing its employees the company’s financials on a quarterly basis. The purpose of open book management is to keep employees invested in the company’s success and guide them how do their jobs in the best way to maximize productivity. Also, including employees in the management process makes them feel valued, which can boost performance and satisfaction.

Every Friday, production at Seaway stops for the last half hour of the day so employees can clean the shop–cold heading shops happen to be notoriously filthy. Afterward, the quality department takes photos around the shop and reports to the various departments how well they cleaned up. Joe says that when visitors come to Seaway they are wowed by the shop’s cleanliness, but more importantly, the cleanliness creates a pleasant working environment for Seaway’s people.

Though Seaway is ambitiously expanding its product lines, the company does not aspire to be like its larger competitors. Joe says the company’s strategy is to do all the little things better than its competition. This will attract the best talent to work there, which in the end will lead to success.

Question: If you could buy any new equipment for your shop, what would you buy?

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Play It Again, Tom

By Lloyd Graff

Tom Brady and I share something more important than being University of Michigan grads. We both want to keep doing what we do for as long as we believe we are good at it. 

I watched Brady Sunday night, playing his former team, the New England Patriots. I was mesmerized by him. I wasn’t betting on either team, but I watched every play as it drizzled on the players’ helmets at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The game was as even as it could be, with Tampa Bay losing by two points, then taking the lead on a field goal by a point, and winning when the last second New England field goal doinked helplessly on the right upright, on the last play of the game.

At 44 years old, Brady came back to New England for the first time since leaving. He played well, not like he did a decade ago, but he won like he almost always does. 

I thought of Brady Monday afternoon as I pulled out a couple of perfectly preserved Screw Machine World and Today’s Machining World magazines from our archives. I found a Graff-Pinkert Times too, while I was poking around. 

I read a little of the Swarf in each publication. Damn, it was really good stuff, despite being 15 to 20 years old. There was joy in those pages, and knowledge, too. I know I’m bragging, of course. 

Am I a Tom Brady? Of course not. But as I read, I saw a creativity, a uniqueness, and a passion to connect with the readers. 

I don’t have a big audience, but I know people do read my stuff. Some have been reading it for 25 years and still seem to care, even when they think I’m an idiot. 

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

I share that with Brady, too. He doesn’t always win. He throws interceptions and occasionally gets smeared by a 280-pound lineman, but he sucks it up and comes back the next week, ready to throw the 50-yard pass. 

If I’m lucky, two out of three of my columns resonate with readers. I like most of what I write because I love language and I cherish ideas that are often a little unconventional. But I especially love personal stories that have that little something that punctures the shield of boredom or indifference that we have all developed as aging humans. If I can relate a good story, I have won. If I bounce off the shield of indifference–well, I get to come back next week.

Tom Brady, keep bending over center and hitting the receiver who is open for a half second, 12 yards down the field. I love your passion for the game at 44, Brady. It’s a message to me, a word warrior with a similar love for my game. Tom, I’m going to just keep getting up every time I take a hit and come out for the next game.

Keep winning the close ones.

Question: Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time?

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Upping Our Machinery Business Game, with Noah and Lloyd Graff

By Noah Graff and Lloyd Graff

Today’s podcast is the second half of our conversation about Graff-Pinkert’s business in 2021. I particularly liked this part of the conversation because we dug deeper into our approaches to selling machinery, talking to people, and one of our favorite subjects—how to find serendipity.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

Lloyd says one thing he wants improve on as a machinery dealer is his tolerance for risk. He believes taking gambles on used equipment is the key to being successful and having fun in the machinery business. Noah asks Lloyd if his willingness to take risks has waned now that Graff-Pinkert is not in debt for the first time in a while. After a moment of reflection, Lloyd says he still wants to take risks and that risk taking is what enabled Graff-Pinkert to get out of debt. Also, he is pleased to say he now sleeps better at night because he is less worried about keeping the machinery business afloat. 

Noah says he is working on getting to know customers more in-depth when they contact Graff-Pinkert. He says it is easy to allow phone conversations to remain merely transactional, only talking about what machines customers are looking for or what they want to sell. In his experience, spending extra time to really get to know people leads to learning important things about business and the world in general. He believes the more information he gathers about a customer, the more chances for serendipitous opportunities—lucky breaks. Also, spending extra time to get to know customers can lead to rewarding relationships that can pay dividends long-term. 

Lloyd says he admires Noah’s conversations and often finds them fascinating to listen to, but he feels he doesn’t have enough energy to have a lot of long phone conversations. His brain is constantly consumed with trying to piece together clever deals. “Connecting the dots,” he calls it. He marvels that all three of his children have careers that revolve around having in-depth conversations. His daughter Sarah is a rabbi and son Ari is a therapist. 

Noah says he wants to work on talking a little bit more during conversations, rather than remaining passive the entire time. While it is great to be an attentive listener and question asker, he says participating more actively is helpful to bring out new important information and create stronger bonds. He tries to use “serendipity hooks,” a phrase coined by Christian Busch, the author of the book The Serendipity Mindset, who he interviewed on a podcast. Serendipity hooks are various statements one inserts into a conversation to spur new discussions. For instance, one person in a conversation could mention they love a certain book or they are passionate about a certain hobby, which then could create a new interesting connection between people.

Lloyd ponders the idea that he likes blogging because it gives him a chance to express himself. He says to Noah that he is disappointed when he doesn’t get any comments on what he writes, interpreting that means the piece didn’t leave an impression on readers. For both men, connecting with readers/listeners, clients, and especially with each other, helps make life meaningful.

Question: What are you working on in your professional life?

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Ford Wants To Win

By Lloyd Graff

I didn’t think I would see it in my lifetime. I’ve been mocking them for years. 

I thought it would take another nut like Elon Musk to produce a competitive electric, self-driving car that could compete with Tesla, and in my mind a GM, Ford, Toyota, or VolksWagen would never have the guts to get to the finish line before the game was already over.

The stock market thought so too. Tesla was at $750, Ford was languishing at $12. 

Then, out of the blue, Ford decided they would actually go for it. They would convince Tom Brady, metaphorically, to leave New England at 43 years old and join yesterday’s team, so they could get to the Super Bowl.

Ford’s head, Jim Farley, somehow convinced Doug Field, who had led Tesla’s longshot effort to build the Model 3, to come to Ford. Field puts Ford near the top of the self-driving electric car sweepstakes.

When Musk booted Field out of Tesla in 2018, because that’s what he does to get the credit when the company is about to reach the end zone, Field moved to Apple to lead their super secret car project that is supposed to reach fruition in 2024. 

Getting the software right for a self-driving electric car is mighty difficult. Just ask Elon Musk, who is defending a bundle of lawsuits while trying.

Ford’s 2022 F-150

If anybody can make the Ford F-150 a legit contender, it is probably Doug Field. After graduating with a bachelors in engineering from Purdue he worked at Johnson & Johnson, where he met the renowned inventor Dean Kamen, who was attempting to build a wheelchair which could go up and down stairs by itself.

Kamen soon left J&J, and Field followed him to his new venture, Segway, where he was the first employee. The Segway is itself a balancing personal transporter which has morphed into a dozen or so products over the last 20 years.

Field was eventually lured to Silicon Valley, but maintained his interest in wheeled vehicles. Steve Jobs hired him at Apple where he became a prime mover of the Macintosh computer.

Eventually the attraction of building something new and great in America connected him to Elon Musk. Musk evidently saw in Field the creativity and drive to lead the Model 3 project that would take Tesla from a toy of the elite to a practical vehicle that could sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of vehicles a year. Government credits made the car economically feasible, and Musk, the showman, could promote Tesla without paying for advertising. Then Apple came once again for Field, this time to lead their self-driving vehicle venture for three years. 

NOW FORD. YES. FORD!

You have to figure Doug Field’s latest move is not about money. To me, it is absolutely shocking.

Ford does have the F-150 Lightning electric truck, which has about 150,000 reservations for the 2021 model, which now may come out in 2022. It’s running neck-and-neck with Tesla’s Cybertruck, which is also late. Ford has to get this right. If it has endless delays and recalls, Tesla will steal the company’s heart, kidneys, and liver. 

Maybe Doug Field took this job to get his revenge against Musk for firing him three years earlier. I have to believe that Ford, with the company on the line, offered Field, a Midwestern Purdue guy, the kind of authority that car companies would never relinquish to a Silicon Valley lifer. Will he deliver? Or will the Detroit insiders paralyze him before he can? 

We’ll find out in the next few years.

Question: Does Ford have a chance to beat Tesla with their electric truck?

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Rebound of 2021

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

For today’s podcast, I decided it was a good time for us to reflect on our used machinery business so far in 2021. It’s been an interesting and profitable nine months for Graff-Pinkert, so we had plenty to talk about—enough to stretch it into a double episode. Also, I was having trouble finding a new guest I wanted to interview. 

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

Lloyd says the word “rebound” is the first thing that comes to his mind when he thinks about Graff-Pinkert’s business in 2021. In 2020, the pandemic threw a wrench into the used machine tool business, putting Graff-Pinkert in survival mode. The only constant work machining companies seemed to be doing was supplying parts for guns and ventilators. However, by September of 2020, most shops were off and running again. Yet still, they were often too indecisive to purchase many machine tools. The 2020 contested election, which concluded with an incoming Democratic president and congress, caused machining companies to remain uncertain about the future.

Lloyd says Graff-Pinkert’s first quarter of 2021 started relatively slow, but the momentum of the business accelerated in February and March. In the second quarter, business was excellent, while in the third quarter it has softened a bit. Perhaps there is some new indecisiveness in the market due to the resurgence of Covid-19.  

Noah questions Lloyd’s theory that Graff-Pinkert’s business success is directly connected to various market factors. He makes the case that a string of a few great machinery deals can make a fantastic month. He suggests that success is not reliant on all customers doing well, just the right ones doing well. However, Lloyd contends that confidence in the economy can tip indecisive customers one way or the other—if they will buy a machine or stand pat. Both agree they are often baffled when customers don’t purchase equipment that seems like a small investment with a huge upside.

Lloyd says that Graff-Pinkert’s Wickman spare parts business has been weak in 2021 in comparison to its relative success in 2020. He theorizes that lately shops are replacing their multi-spindles with CNC Swiss machines because they don’t have the people to run the old equipment. 

Noah points out that Graff-Pinkert has done well in 2021 selling older cam multi-spindles. However, the majority of those machines were sold to plants in Mexico that have the personnel to run them. Graff-Pinkert has also done well selling cam multi-spindles because most used machinery dealers are afraid to spec on them. Lloyd says he is willing to take a chance on old cam multi-spindles that he knows he might end up scrapping because he can purchase them with a modest investment.

Lloyd and Noah have observed that more customers lately are choosing to buy new machines rather than used ones. They hypothesize this trend is due to the technical service and warrantees new machine tool builders provide.

Noah asks Lloyd what excites him most about the used machinery business. Lloyd says that the challenge of making deals is the reason he went into the business and the reason he has stayed in the business a half century. He says he loves the way it is fueled by serendipity and connecting the dots to create deals. He also admits to enjoying the gambling aspects of the business, particularly placing contrarian bets on equipment others overlook. Both he and Noah say that one of their favorite parts of the business is getting to work alongside each other. 

Question: Has your business followed a similar pattern this year to that of Graff-Pinkert?

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Tell Me A Story

By Lloyd Graff

Every day I hear the cliched laments about the lack of people available to set up machines and run them to make parts customers want to purchase, except when I don’t.

I was talking to a successful entrepreneur yesterday who bangs out nuts and bolts by the millions. He said that he has no problem hiring great people to keep his massive cold headers banging away. 

The shop owner had written me a beautiful fan note mentioning my recent piece about the apple tree that refused to bear fruit for decades. After thirty moribund years, the tree became prolific when it should have been withering. He loved the story, and when I asked him about his own success, he told me it was about having stories to tell. 

Then he told me one of his stories. He built his business using National cold forming equipment. The president of National had never visited him, despite being located nearby in Ohio. He finally stopped by recently to study the company’s ongoing major expansion. After looking around the facility, he asked if he could use the bathroom and the shop owner pointed him toward the men’s washroom in the plant. 

When he came back to the office, his first comment was, “It’s all marble. Your shop bathroom is all marble.” 

“My people deserve only the best,” the shop owner told him.

This is a story I will remember, and it is a story his employees will tell other people in the business. It is a story that will keep his shifts humming while other manufacturers glumly complain that there are no good people available. 

One of the keys to success in business is developing the stories to tell and then figuring out how to put them all out in the field. 

When my children were young, I would often put them to bed later than I was supposed to. They wanted me to tell them stories and preferred an original genre I had developed over the years. I called them “Ooga, Wooga, Mooga” stories for the three primary characters in them. They were original and ridiculous meandering tales that I would make up on the spot.

The kids loved them because they were not out of a book and thoroughly unpredictable. I think the stories made them feel special. Nobody else had ever heard an Ooga, Wooga, Mooga story. As they got older, they begged for them when they were sick or glum. 

When I heard about the marble bathroom story and felt its strength, it reminded me of the bedtime stories and their lingering memory. Now, as they raise their own children, they still talk about them.

Screens and social media certainly have their power today, but the lasting strength of the story told one-on-one is hard to replace. I think the current trend of podcasts replacing magazines, radio, and TV is fueled by the power of stories and anecdotes with the spoken human voice. It makes them sticky in the human brain. 

When politicians, media figures, and business leaders try to make their point by using numbers and data that point out what “the science tells us,” my brain immediately tunes out. 

Please, just tell me a good story.

Question: What stories do you enjoy sharing?

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Are They A Buyer?

By Noah Graff

Machinery deals are often like fruit. Sometimes you just have to wait for them to ripen. — Old machinery dealer proverb.

The Swiss CNC market is red hot. Of course, that’s if you have the right machine on the right day.

Graff-Pinkert has a beautiful Tornos GT-26 Swiss machine for sale. It’s manufactured 2015, has about 4,000 hours on it, and looks almost new. A lot of people have come close to buying it—I think.

In July, a dealer I enjoy with working on the West Coast “had it sold.” But when it was time to wire funds, his customer hesitated and then backed out.

Around the same time, another dealer told us he was very close to selling the machine to an old customer who had several of the same model. “A 70% chance they would buy!” he said.

A guy in Estonia has also inquired on it several times in the last year, texting price proposals back and forth with me on WhatsApp. We even reached the point where we were getting pricing to ship the machine to Helsinki, Finland, which I learned is a short ferry ride from from Tallinn, Estonia.

Tornos GT-26 being sold by Graff-Pinkert

A few weeks ago, the owner of a company in Savanah, Georgia, inquired on the Tornos. He makes a product called a KeyBar, a mechanism similar to a pocket knife but for keys. We talked a while about the machine and his company. He hasn’t purchased it yet, but at least it led to a fascinating podcast interview we posted a few weeks ago. Podcast interviews are often the consolation prize for deals that don’t work out.

A job shop in the Midwest called me Monday, saying they thought they were ready to buy the machine. I’ve talked to them several times this year about it. They seemed like they were serious about buying it then as well. Maybe this time they will buy the machine, maybe they won’t. I’m keeping my expectations tempered. 

I spoke to a different customer about this machine also on Monday. He has a business out West making body jewelry. He emailed us, inquiring about a Citizen L20 that we no longer have. I told him about the GT-26 and he got excited. He said he had researched the model but hadn’t thought he would ever find such a good deal on used one. He has never owned a Swiss machine before but told me he is the type of person who “jumps into the deep end of the pool feet first.” He says he’s not afraid of taking a risk if he sees a great opportunity. I told him about the other guy who called the same day, who said he was ready to buy the machine, and he was disappointed. He said finding the used Tornos GT-26 that day seemed like fate. I told him I loved his serendipity mindset and that he should listen to the podcast I recorded about the topic. As of today, the machine is still available, and it’s fair game. Is he another person who got excited but then couldn’t dive into the pool? I honestly don’t know.

I’ve learned it’s hard to tell when someone really is going to buy a machine. Often people I think are hot on a machine, just can’t pull the trigger. Part of my job is to figure out the difference between “someone who wants a machine” and “someone who is going to buy a machine.”

I know most of the machines we sell aren’t cheap. They can sometimes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t blame people for shopping around. They want to be sure of themselves before they spend the money.

Also, I have to always remind myself. For me, these machinery deals are the center of my attention. They pay the mortgage. Perhaps at a specific moment, while selling the machine is the most important thing to me, the customer has something entirely different on their mind. That is out of my control.

The question is, what is within my control? Maybe nobody has bought the machine because its price is too high. Maybe I haven’t been persuasive enough. Perhaps if I was more creative we could have made a deal. What I’d like to think is that the machine just hasn’t found its right match for a new owner.

A fellow dealer once told me that finding a wife is like finding the right machine. When you see it, you just know it’s right. That may be true. After all, these days the Web is a good place to find both.

Question: What’s your favorite used machine you’ve ever purchased?

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