Category Archives: Today’s Machining World

A Gap in My Perception

By Lloyd Graff

We just recorded the biggest gain in stock prices for any quarter since 1998 with American unemployment at unprecedented levels. You don’t need to read the obvious in this blog, so let’s talk Yeezy, Kanye West, and Gap.

Gap stock rose 42% in one day last week when Kanye West announced he was designing a clothing line with his Yeezy brand on it, exclusively for Gap for 10 years. Gap’s value jumped $2 billion dollars with the news.

Being no fan of hip hop music, but mildly interested in West because he grew up near where I did on Chicago’s South Side, and because he met cordially with Donald Trump at the White House, I checked out Yeezy. The brand has turned Adidas from the German blahs to Jordan-esque cool with outrageously priced sneakers. A Yeezy pair of gym shoes may sell for $500 a pair if you can get them.

I really don’t feel the allure of celebrity apparel, but undoubtedly West is hot today and Gap, where Kanye worked as a kid, is capitalizing on his caché. Will Kanye West become a fading yesterday in a year? Not likely, with the magic of his wife, Kim Kardashian, continually polishing his image?

***

Another brand that fascinates me with its phenomenal stock performance is Peloton. The company sells an exercise bike and will lose more than $100 million this year. Yet it is worth more than Ford and Chrysler, and its stock has more than doubled since it went public a few months ago.

You don’t buy a Peloton at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Target. For $2,000 you can buy the hardware, but the secret sauce is the $40 a month subscription fee, which brings you a huge array of virtual programs. It also buys you status, because the Peloton bike is the Tesla of exercycles. Like Kanye’s $500 Kicks, it is the brand of the cool rich folk on the 40th floor of Manhattan high rises. And you can use it without having to schlep to the gym and put on a mask with the other infectious plebeians.

The branding is working brilliantly. The company is worth $16 billion.

***

Another fascinating story is Nikola, headed by Elon Musk wannabe, Trevor Milton. The company went public a couple weeks ago and has a market cap approaching $30 billion. They plan to build hydrogen powered semi-trucks at a yet-to-be-built plant near Phoenix. They might get a vehicle on the road in a couple of years. They are also taking reservations for a battery powered pickup truck called the Badger, which will eventually compete with Tesla’s Cybertruck, which Musk is already testing.

Nikola’s branding is clever, right down to the name, which is a play on the first name of the famous Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.

***

One other stock I like to follow is DraftKings, which is an online sports betting company. The stock goes up and down with the likelihood of playing the baseball, basketball, and football seasons. When COVID flares up and players fall ill, the stock price falls. The company is valued around $10 billion dollars now. It is a play on the likelihood of a viable vaccine in a short period of time.

An assessment of Gap, Peloton, Nikola, and DraftKings, paints a colorful picture of America around the 4th of July 2020. The promoter and the entrepreneur are definitely alive. Should we be joyful or sad? Not a Yeezy question.

Question: Did Gap make a good deal?

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The Jackie Robinson Connection

By Lloyd Graff

Ed Howard was a star player for the Jackie Robinson Little League team that went to the Little League World Series in 2014. Last week, the Chicago Cubs picked him in the first round of the major league baseball draft. He was the number 16 pick overall, and it was the first time the Cubs have ever picked a Chicago player high in the draft.

The symbolism of an African-American from that Jackie Robinson team becoming a future Cub is powerful for me. As a boy, I went to Wrigley Field with my mother, an avid Cubs fan, to see the Cubs play the Brooklyn Dodgers when their best player was Jackie Robinson. 

Jackie came up to the Dodgers in 1947 to break the color barrier of Major League Baseball.  When I was 11 years old, I did not understand segregation in sports, but I do remember my excitement over the Cubs bringing in Ernie Banks and Gene Baker in 1954.

Drafting Ed Howard during this period of racial unrest in America is a reminder of the change I have seen in this country in my lifetime. Howard was considered the best shortstop prospect in the 2020 draft, but I believe the reason Theo Epstein and the Cubs picked him is because of the symbolism of getting a hometown black player from that Jackie Robinson Little League team which had captured the imagination of the city of Chicago. 

If Howard has just a hair of the charisma Jackie Robinson had, he will be a huge star for the Cubs.

Jacky Robinson Sliding into Home vs. New York Giants

I keep a giant photo of Jackie hanging in my garage, so every day that I leave the house I see Robinson stealing home against the hated New York Giants with the umpire calling him safe. Although I love baseball, it is the only baseball picture I have hanging in the house. I still have a bat signed by Ernie Banks, but that photo is the most significant sports memorabilia I own.

Race and sports and their interaction have been threads that have helped define me during my lifetime. 

I watched the greatest football player who ever lived, Jim Brown, from his days at Syracuse University to his incredible career with the Cleveland Browns. I was shocked when he retired from the game while still at his peak, also a huge sports memory.

In basketball, probably my greatest memory is rooting for the unknown Texas Western team as they defeated University of Kentucky for the NCAA Championship in 1966. Adolph Rupp coached the Kentucky Wildcats, who wouldn’t have a black player on the team until 1969. Texas Western was the first college team with five black players in the starting lineup, led by Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins. 

I have lived a lifelong struggle with my own gut-level feelings of racism, fighting with my feelings of kinship with black people as a Jew and an American, trying to live up to the ideals of my religion and country.

Jackie Robinson always will be my greatest sports hero. Here’s hoping 18-year-old Ed Howard, who went to high school a few blocks away from my childhood home, will become worthy of my walls and my cheers.

Question: Is baseball dead to you?

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How to Deal with the Police?

When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago on Euclid Avenue, seven blocks north from where Michelle Obama grew up, my father taught me many valuable life lessons.

One that I remember quite vividly was what to do when I was stopped by a Chicago policeman while driving. My dad had illustrated his approach a few times while I observed from the car. He was proud of his skill and execution.

He told me, “Lloyd, right after you stop the car, turn off the motor and immediately get out of the car, stand erect, and walk up to the police car while the cop is still in the car. Apologize if you were speeding or made a driving error.” My dad had used this strategy successfully a number of times. He had also perfected the folded $20 bill concealed under the driver’s license play, which he was extremely proud of.

I never had the bold courage to do the folded bill, but I did try the jump out of the car routine a few times until a polite policeman told me quite forcefully to stay in the car with my hands on the wheel.

***

When black kids get their license they get very different instructions. My wife tells me that the parents of her black students live in mortal fear of their children being stopped by the cops and being harassed, or worse.

Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal wrote a nice piece Monday about Malcom Brogdon, who plays guard for the Indiana Pacers. Brogdon recounted the advice he received when he was 16 from his grandfather, who happened to be a civil rights leader. When he was given the family’s old green Toyota Avalon he had to sign a binding legal contract before he got behind the wheel, which set forth how he was to behave if he ever was stopped by the police.

Brogdon said, “I was taught to put my hands on the steering wheel, to turn off the music, to roll down every window of the car, to put my blinkers and emergency hazards on, and sit there silently and comply with the officer until he let you go.”

Brogdon followed the instructions correctly and came out ok when he eventually did get stopped. His mother, a professor at Morehouse College, says she was relieved but still fears another incident could get out of control.

***

A couple days ago, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, which usually disagree about everything, wrote remarkably similar pieces about rogue police behavior toward African-Americans. Both articles pointed out the terrible role played by police unions, insulating bad cops from being kicked off the force or being prosecuted. The union seems to think it is their sacred obligation to protect even the dirtiest of cops, especially in cases of racial targeting.

The need to clean up police practices in America is not a liberal vs conservative or Democrat against Republican issue. We desperately need order today, but the endemic fear African Americans have toward the police is bad for the whole country. Blunting the power of police unions is one thing that America can agree on.

It is doable if partisan blabbing doesn’t get in the way.

I much prefer it to the $20 under the license that I never had the guts to try anyway.

Question: Are the police being persecuted? 

 

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Ep. 84 – Advertising Machinery with Tom Scanlan of Surplus Record

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Tom Scanlan, publisher of Surplus Record, an online and printed marketplace for buying and selling used industrial equipment, founded in 1924 by Tom’s Grandfather.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast. Or listen here on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

I use Surplus Record along with several other online platforms every day for our machinery business, Graff-Pinkert. But Surplus Record is unique because it combines the simplicity and transparency of an old school print publication with the convenience and speed of an online platform.

Main Points

(3:00) Tom says Leonard Graff and Aaron Pinkert, owners of Graff-Pinkert, taught him about Wickman Screw Machines when he started at Surplus Record in 1982.

(3:25) Tom says Surplus Record is the only print publication left of used machinery and industrial equipment. He says it is sent out monthly to 137,000 subscribers, 99% in the U.S. and Canada. 

(3:55) Tom talks about putting Surplus Record listings on the Web in 1995 after urging from his brother, who was in Silicon Valley. He laughs about how most of the machinery dealers at the time didn’t even know what a website was. 

(6:10) Tom says Surplus Record’s Website is constantly updated by machinery and electrical equipment dealers. He says one thing endusers appreciate about Surplus Record is that they don’t have to register to get information. Company names and phone numbers are clearly visible, unlike some other online machinery trading platforms. Also, Tom says Surplus Record’s own contact information is clearly visible on its site for endusers to call if they need credit references for sellers. He says his office gets six to eight calls per day by people asking to confirm if advertisers are legitimate. Tom says he or one of his staff personally visits 90% of Surplus Record’s advertisers, so they can stay up to date with what’s going on at their businesses and who is currently working there. 

(10:15) Tom says in the last few weeks several manufacturers have called Surplus Record to make sure they would receive their monthly print editions. They were concerned that during the COVID-19 crisis they might lose access to the Web and not be able to get the equipment they need if it goes down in the shop.

(11:40) Noah says he uses Surplus Record every day for its constantly active free bulletin board of wanted and for sale equipment.

(13:00) Tom talks about Surplus Record first accepting advertisements from auctioneers in 2005. This came about because many machinery dealers were becoming auctioneers. 

(14:45) Tom says Surplus Record is very popular for people who need electrical equipment quickly when it goes down. He says the transparent information about Surplus Record’s sellers (company name and contact information) makes it quicker and more user friendly than eBay.

(16:00) Tom talks about his father dying suddenly, which led to him running Surplus Record. He says he was trained on the job by a lot of the company’s clients.

(17:00) Tom says he is happy that his 32-year-old son, Tom IV, is now working at Surplus Record and will become his successor. He says his son still believes in keeping the print publication, but he admits that his son is much more Internet savvy than he is. He says he knows his son will come up with new ways of doing things, just like each successive generation of the 96-year-old company. 

Question: Do you prefer reading print or on the Web?

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Zooming in Different Worlds

By Lloyd Graff

I feel like I am living in several different worlds. 

During the day I am a business guy, trying to put together the diverse strings of commerce around the country and the world, culminating in a buy and a sell with a margin of profit for my company built into it. The outside world keeps telling me that there isn’t anything but scraps to be had, but I am finding a lot of opportunities when I contact the smart small and medium-sized business owners who are sniffing for opportunity at the moment. It really is quite refreshing to connect with these aggressively optimistic folk who ignore the gloom of the TV and radio blabs. I feed on their energy and they seem to enjoy mine.

As the late dusk sinks in, I turn on the news shows, which at the moment are immersed in pictures of broken windows, strewn Nikes, and stray flat screen TV boxes thought to symbolize the moment. It is demoralizing and scary journalism with no depth of understanding, just an abject play for ratings and a rising fear quotient. It affects me, even though I know it is a transient flicker of pain in 2020. The race riots have replaced COVID-19 this week as the story of the moment.

COVID is a lingering story of government mismanagement framed by the paranoid thirst of the press. It is an extremely costly one, but the threads of fear have a vibrancy for me in the death numbers of older, sicker people which comprise 80% of the dead.

Then I check stock prices and oil prices before I go to bed. Stocks are near their record highs. The NASDAQ, which has younger firms, is 3% below its all-time high. If I am looking for an indicator of optimism in America and investors from around the world, this is where I look for it.

I also take my assortment of medicines at night, which include a statin for cholesterol, a refined fish oil for all around cardiovascular health, and a Bystolic, which is an amazing beta blocker that controls high blood pressure. The negativists who see the world in decline don’t understand that people like me would never be alive at 75 after a heart attack 12 years ago. Folks living in the good old days of 1962 never would have recovered from blocked arteries like mine and their kids might well be in Iron Lungs with polio. 

We are likely to have a COVID-19 vaccine that actually works by the end of the year.  We now have a useful treatment for the illness, which will be augmented shortly. 

Not to be ignored is the rapid adoption of Zoom to connect people. My wife Risa uses it every day. I get to see my grandkids more often than I ever did before. Some young entrepreneurs infiltrated the market with a better product and took a dominant position in person to person TV while the giants, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco, slept. Now they are hopelessly behind.

The SpaceX Dragon 2

Before I go to sleep at night, I like to imagine the possibility of Zoom connecting the world with American astronauts zooming up to the International Space Station in Elon Musk’s rocket taxi. Yet the image of a brick smashing a Macy’s window plunders my calm. 

It’s June 2020. My life is good except when the noise of the day interrupts my joy of being alive.

Question: Do you still listen to the news?

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Ep. 83 – Tooling Machines to Fight COVID-19

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the show is Gordon Erickson, founder of KWALYTI Tool in Batavia, Illinois. KWALYTI specializes in tooling up packaging machines, often for food products such as meat and cheese. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, KWALYTI has played an essential role in combating the epidemic. The company has tooled machines to package cotton swabs for coronavirus testing. Soon it will be tooling machines that produce pouches for holding N95 masks so they can be sterilized for reuse.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

(2:45) Gordon talks about his company KWALYTI, a machine shop, located in the Batavia, Illinois. He says KWALYTI rebuilds and tools up vacuum packaging machines, primarily used in the meat and cheese industry. When you see the vacuum packages holding hotdogs or bacon they are probably produced with the type of machines his company works with. 

(5:00) Gordon talks about tooling packaging machines for both the food and medical industries. For the medical industry KWALYTI has tooled machines that vacuum pack suture removal kits and packages of gauze. KWALYTI also services and troubleshoots the machines it supplies.

(9:30) Gordon says that KWALYTI has suppled three machines to Vienna Beef, the hotdog brand that Chicago is famous for.  

(10:50) Gordon talks about how KWALYTI has been relied upon during the COVID-19 pandemic. He says when Illinois Governor Pritzker instituted the shelter in place order he quickly got a call from Vienna Beef and some other customers telling him the company needed to stay up and running because it was their main parts and service provider for their packaging machines. Also during the pandemic, demand for vacuum packaging machines arose when food that had usually gone to restaurants was diverted to grocery stores.

(13:30) Gordon talks about supplying molds to a company in Florida to change over its machines from packaging syringes to packaging nasal swabs for virus testing. He said the company was running three shifts a day making 3” swabs. 

(15:30) Gordon says that KWALYTI is in the process of making a perforating system that goes onto a machine to makes special pouches. Medical workers will put their used N95 masks in the pouches, which then will undergo an autoclave sterilization process overnight so they can be reused the next day. An autoclave process exposes the pouches to 250 degree Fahrenheit direct steam. The pouches have one side made of plastic and the other side made of a material called Tivek.  

(18:45) The same company that makes pouches to sterilize the masks also had KWALYTI make a tool to use in machines that make plasma bags. He says some of the tooling his company produces could have taken months to import from Germany, but he was able to produce them in a week.

(20:20) Gordon says he doesn’t point the finger at the government for not being more ready to deal with supply chain problems because nobody could predict what was going to happen. He says many critics are “hindsight engineers,” and in his case, suppliers knew right away they needed to insure food packaging machines stay up and running. 

(23:40) Gordon says he likes his business because it helps people people make their ideas happen. He says that tooling machines to combat COVID-19 doesn’t give him much more purpose in his work than he had before because he always felt his products were vital. Though he says right now he has more pressure than usual to get products to customers faster. 

Question: Should people wear face masks when they go out of the house?

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Healthcare Workers and Combat Veterans Need to Share Their Experiences

By Chad Storlie

This week on Swarfblog, we’re sharing a timely guest post by US veteran and B2B marketing expert, Chad Storlie. Chad discusses the similarities he sees between combat veterans and the nation’s healthcare workers, and offers encouragement and advice to strengthen their resolve. Read on: 

Imagine going to work each day armed with the best colleagues, the best technology, the best training, and the best education to battle a resilient, ever present, and capable foe.  You do your best and people still die.  Wake up the next day, do your best, people die.  Then repeat, repeat, and repeat.

Healthcare workers are learning in a COVID-19 world what combat veterans have struggled with for an eternity.  What if you do your best and it is not enough?  What if you do your best and you fail?

The problems, frustrations, and despair that healthcare workers are experiencing fighting COVID-19 and the maelstrom of secondary effects on patients are disheartening and all too familiar for combat veterans.  Trapped in sweated soaked protective equipment, lacking mission critical supplies, cut off from friends and family, fighting a changing foe that is everywhere and nowhere, and working incredible hours without end.  This could be Balad, Brooklyn, Fallujah, or Detroit.  Counterinsurgency and COVID-19 too often follow the same challenges.

Healthcare workers are the new front line

I am a small “c” combat veteran.  A small “c” for combat because I only did a year in Iraq and a little less than two years in post-war Bosnia helping that country pull itself out of a genocidal, killing frenzy.  My peers did 6, 10, and 12 combat deployments between Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations across the globe.  Combat veterans need to pass our emotional learning onto the country’s new front line soldiers, healthcare workers.

Combat veterans need to express to healthcare workers that effort, caring, attitude, and resolve matter most when they seemingly matter not at all.  One of my most difficult days in Iraq highlighted a massive car bomb that blew up at the provisional United Nations compound with an understanding that none, none of our massive web of ongoing intelligence operations detected the plan.  On one of my worst days, I got back to work and tried again to do my best work.

In Special Forces training, the mantra of “Do the Best You Can” rings through every operation, every class, and every Special Forces instructor.  Doing the best fully acknowledges that difficult, seemingly impossible, mission sets are the part and parcel of a Special Forces life.  The key part for Special Forces is that no matter the conditions, you do your best, and you do your best again and again no matter the conditions.

Combat veterans knew that to win we needed to go out and do our best every day, to help and keep faith with our fellow soldiers, and to always, always come back the next day willing to lead, willing to keep improving, and willing to keep believing that we would be successful.

Whether combat or COVID-19, I want the healthcare front line to believe in themselves, believe in their training, and believe in their ability to win.  I know that the true results of their efforts may be years away, but their daily efforts contribute to the coming victory. 

Question: What have you been able to do to help people during the COVID-19 crisis?

Chad Storlie is a retired US Army Special Forces officer, an Iraq combat veteran, and has 15 years university teaching experience as an adjunct Professor of Marketing.  He is a mid-level B2B marketing executive and a widely published author on leadership, business, data, decision making, military and technology topics.

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Ep. 81 – Negotiating Like an FBI Agent with Chris and Brandon Voss Part II

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the second half of a two part interview with Chris and Brandon Voss, coauthors of the best selling book on business negotiation, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

Chris Voss used to be an FBI hostage negotiator. When he retired, he applied the negotiation techniques he learned in law enforcement to the business world. Some of the methods Chris and Brandon teach can seem difficult to execute and counterintuitive, but I can personally vouch for their effectiveness in my own business dealings.  

Main Points

(3:00) Chris and Brandon talk about why they prefer not to name price first in negotiations. They also explain why they don’t like extreme anchoring (naming an extreme asking price to begin a negotiation). Brandon says that it’s a problem that so many people come into a negotiation and automatically assume the first price is an extreme anchor. 

(5:35) Chris says that very often when people ask you to give them a price they are not actually interested in buying. He says that researchers have found that at least 20% of the time people ask you for a price they are only looking for a competitive bid, which he equates to lying in business. He says this percentage is an underestimate because people don’t naturally admit to lying, so you have to use strategies to bring out the truth.

(10:40) Brandon gives examples of how to use labeling to get a customer to reveal what they are willing to spend. As explained in part one of the interview, a great strategy to get information is to use labels—verbal observations such as “it seems like,” “it sounds like,” “it looks like,” and “it feels like.” He suggests saying, “It sounds like you haven’t spent that much time thinking about what you would spend on this,” “It sounds like there is a ceiling you don’t want to cross,” or “It sounds like you have a range in mind.”

(13:17) Brandon says it is also good to let a counterpart name price first because it  makes that person feel they are in control. He says that when people feel autonomous and in control of what is happening they are more likely to want to make a deal. 

(15:10) Chris explains the purpose of asking “no” questions. One of the negotiation techniques Chris and Brandon prescribe is getting other people to say “no” in conversations. He says that people are unfortunately conditioned that the word “no” is a word they don’t want hear in negotiations. People associate it with failure. However, he says research has shown that when people say “no” it actually makes them comfortable and safe and prompts them to take action (see video below).

Click here to watch more videos from the interview.

(18:40) Noah asks if Trump is a good negotiator. Chris asks jokingly, “Do you want the Trump people to hate us?” Chris brings up Trump’s dealings with North Korea. He says Trump did a spectacular job opening the negotiation with  North Korea—something unprecedented. However, he says that today nobody seems to know where the negations are at. Chris says that Trump is by nature an “assertive” negotiator, similar he and Brandon. He says that assertive negotiating can yield to some early spectacular successes, but people will not want to deal with you long-term if you can’t change from that mode. He says that every negotiator needs to be assertive, but it cannot be the only component in how you operate.

(21:35) Brandon and Chris discuss their dislike for the concept of “win-win” solutions. Brandon says the term is associated with compromise in which both parties give up things, leading them to feel unsatisfied. In his experience, deals that people call “win-win” often fall apart. Chris says when someone says “win-win” in a negotiation, they are either a cutthroat negotiator or a naive negotiator. He says if someone calls him to propose a “win-win opportunity,” he will hang up. Unfortunately this subject came up at the very end of the interview, and Chris and Brandon said they could easily give an entire lecture about it because of its complexity.

Question: Do you like to haggle when buying a car?

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Ep. 80 – Negotiating Like an FBI Agent with Chris and Brandon Voss

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is part 1 of a two part interview with Chris and Brandon Voss, co-authors of the best selling book on business negotiation, Never Split the Difference, and executives at Black Swan Group, a company offering business negotiation training.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

Never Split the Difference teaches how to approach business negotiations using the same the techniques that Chris Voss learned from decades working as an FBI hostage negotiator. I can vouch for its effectiveness personally, having listened to the book from start to finish 3 years ago. I probably use its principles in our business every day.

Main Points

(3:45)  Chris and Brandon explain their company, Black Swan Group, which teaches business negotiation. They sum it up as the company that “makes sure you don’t leave money on the table.” They also say that it provides guidance for navigating difficult conversations.

(5:35)  Chris talks about working as an FBI hostage negotiator specializing in terrorism. He says that his son Brandon learned a lot about negotiation from a very young age by observing him. He says that Brandon used his skills of “disarming agitated adversaries” to deal with disciplinarians and Vice Principals in high school. After Chris retired from the FBI he taught negotiation in business classes at Harvard and Georgetown. A few years ago he and Brandon cowrote Never Split the Difference, which has become the best selling business negotiation book around the world.

(9:00) Chris says that the principles of hostage negotiation work for business negotiations across all cultures. He says that in every business deal something is under siege or threat.

(12:25) Brandon explains one of their most important negotiation strategies, mirroring and labeling. He explains that “labeling” refers to a verbal observation in which a person says, “it feels like,” “it sounds like,” “it seems like,” or “it looks like.” A “mirror” means repeating the last few words of the last sentence that someone has just said. These techniques help sound out your counterpart. They give a person new information about how the counterpart sees a situation, but the counterpart stays relaxed because you don’t have to ask questions. Questions can make people feel they are being interrogated.

(17:15) Noah brings up his own recent challenge using mirrors and labels to get a machinery rigger down in price.

(19:25) Brandon talks about a negotiation technique called an “accusations audit” (see video) that Noah could use to try to get a machinery rigger down in price. The negotiator mentions all of the difficult things his counterpart has had to do to accommodate him. This can neutralize his negative feelings before he has a chance to say them. In the case of Noah’s machinery rigger, he could say to him things like, “I know you have had to do a lot of work already for this job,” “I know you’re the only game in town,” “I know you’ve already tried to get the price down,” and “I bet your sick and tired of having this conversation with everyone you speak to.”

Click here to watch more videos from the interview.

(24:15) Chris explains price anchoring. He says that most academics say a person should start a negotiation by naming an extreme asking price. However, he discourages this strategy because it can scare customers away and cause one to lose potential deals. Also people don’t know what price their counterparts will start at—perhaps his price is better than they thought. Chris says the majority of the best negotiators get the counterpart to name a price first. When both people are trying to make each other name price first a person can use mirrors and labels to get important information about the price the counterpart has in mind.

Question: Do you usually like to name price first in a negotiation?

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Ep. 79 – Building the Ultimate E-Bike with Taber West

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the podcast is Taber West, founder of Gravity Worx, the manufacturer of a high performance suspension electric bike, called the E160FS.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast

When Taber was younger he raced bikes professionally, but as he aged and gained weight he no longer could do the type of cycling he used to enjoy, particularly mountain biking. When he discovered that a high performance e-bike could empower him to ride places he had thought were impossible, he set out to build his own.

Main Points

(3:50) Taber gives his background. He started out as a junior electrical engineer in the Navy. He has worked at various tech companies such as Unisys and Intel. He worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory (in his home town), where he worked on projects such as constructing super computers, running fiber networks, and various classified projects for United States military and security agencies. This gave him a wide background in fields such as advanced manufacturing, digital systems, and programming. He has three engineering degrees in electrical engineering, complex systems, and software engineering.

(5:22) Taber says when he was younger he raced bicycles professionally in triathlons and mountain biking, which he calls “painful and financially ungainful.” He says he liked mountain biking the best, even though mountain bikes back then were primitive and braze welded, with no suspension. He says he has tested just about every mountain bike component over the last 30 years.

(6:30) Taber talks about restarting his old bicycle company, Gravity Worx, 6 years ago, focusing on building state of the art carbon fiber mountain bike wheels. He designed a multiple wheel mold and started producing composite wheels and testing them under extreme riding conditions. He wanted to create a mountain bike built to withstand hitting the trails hard or carrying a heavy rider such as himself—Taber says he is 6 feet and weighs 300 pounds.

(9:25) Taber says he knew that with the right technology he could build a mountain bike stronger, faster, and better than anything else out there. The problem was that the best technologies which were being used in aerospace and ballistics had not yet been applied to building bicycles.

(10:00) Taber shows Noah a cut section of one of his rims, a hollow composite layup in a three piece mold that has no holes in the spokes.

(12:00) Taber says that after he engineered his components he had to search for the right machine tool to produce them.

(12:50) Taber explains in detail the components for his bikes’ hub shells. The body of the hub shell is forged from a 7075 ingot of aluminum alloy, then heat treated, then machined down.

(16:40) Taber talks about the production process for the hub. He says to make the hub at a typical machine shop it would probably require 2 different 5-axis mills and 4 different operations. He discovered that Samsung has multi-axis Swiss-type mills designed for feeding in bar stock that can machine the part in about 9 and a half minutes. He said another option is the INDEX C300 turning center priced around $1million (he estimates), which can make the part in about 4 and a half minutes.

(22:30) Taber talks about his prototype rear derailleur, the mechanism that shifts the chain at the rear sprockets (see video). He says his is different from all other rear derailleurs in the world because it’s designed specifically for his mountain bikes and e-bikes. He says an e-bike bike is extra heavy and has to withstand significantly more torc.

(23:25) Taber talks about how he has to produce very precise bike components because even a few extra grams can effect performance.

(24:25) Taber compares his e-bike’s features with competitors. He says he can get 55 hours of heavy climbing out of a single battery charge. He says part of the reason he can get such long battery life is that his bike weighs 44 and half pounds while a typical e-bike is in the 53-55 pound range. Thus, his bike is lighter, but is built to hold more weight. He says he designs his bikes to climb a hill at a 20% grade over rock. Taber says that his initial prototype bikes have passed 500 miles of riding and 63,000 feet of climbing.

Question: What is your experience with e-bikes?

 

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