Category Archives: Today’s Machining World

Stuck in the Mitt

By Lloyd Graff

My plan was to write about the machining world. “Nuts and bolts tonight, dad,” Noah nudged me before I left work. “Leave the baseball,” was how he ended the sentence. 

When I got home, I read a little of the Wall Street Journal looking for inspiration. I accidentally fell into a column by Bob Greene, who once wrote brilliantly for the Chicago Tribune. The article was about giving a Rawlings baseball glove to a friend to connect him with his youth and cheer him up. It was a beautiful piece, and I immediately wanted to share it with friends and family. 

I was curious about what happened to Bob Greene, whose work is rarely seen these days. I Googled him and found a long article about the rise and fall of the brilliant Bob Green, my contemporary and a much better writer than I ever could hope to be. 

Greene has evidently had a tough personal life after reaching the top of journalism and writing several acclaimed books. His wife died, he has been accused of being a womanizer, and he is in pain about some of his most acclaimed pieces. An article he wrote after 11 Israelis were killed at the 1972 Olympics is still on many people’s refrigerators. It was a classic piece of personal journalism, the kind I often attempt to emulate. Yet Greene says he wishes he never wrote it.

Greene often writes seemingly heartfelt, sentimental articles, yet later talks about them with cynicism. He writes from his gut, then rejects them as he descends into anger and despair. 

Who is the Bob Greene I love to read? After reading this long article about the man whose writing stands out as something to be cherished and shared, I knew I should share it with others who I knew would also adore it.

I understand the Bob Greene question. Is he being honest in his work? Is he writing from the heart or just to make it publishable? Is Bob Greene an amazing writer or a phony–both? Can somebody be a jerk one day and a saint the next? Do I really care whether Bob Green is a miserable human being if he can write with such humanity that he can move me to tears?

After all, I don’t really know who Bob Greene is as a person. Maybe he has come out of a dark period in his life and he really is the person who gifted the Rawlings baseball glove, and then he bought one for himself. He writes that the glove is being shaped now with neatsfoot oil. 

We all go through tough periods in our lives and doubt our own sincerity. Bob Greene, I love your writing. I have loved it for 40 years. I’m going to buy a friend a mitt, too. Thank you so much for your 500 wonderful words.

Question: Do you care if someone is a jerk if they do great work?

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Playing Stupid

By Lloyd Graff

Kyle Schwarber, playing for the Washington Nationals, is on a roll. He has hit 15 homers in a 17-day span, the first major leaguer in history to accomplish that feat. His remark after his last two-homer game was striking: “To be honest with you, I want to play stupid, just keep going up there and take your at-bat. Don’t remember the one before, just live in the present. Just go out there and have a short memory.”

Watching the NBA playoffs a couple days ago, I watched Trae Young, the 22-year-old superstar of the Atlanta Hawks on his way to a 49-point performance. He was unconscious, just playing on fire. Toward the end of the hard fought game, he dribbled at full speed down the center of the court, 15 feet from the basket, he tossed the ball high off the backboard. A leaping teammate received it like the amazingly perfect pass it was and cleanly dunked it. 

You can’t plan a play like that. You can only improvise it when you “feel it.” Your teammate is in sync and “feels it” simultaneously. Could he have shot the ball and made it? Maybe. But the play he made was one play out of a game of terrific plays that I will remember and write about. He was “playing stupid,” totally in the moment, and focusing perfectly by not thinking. 

These moments are rare in life. Even more rare in work, but I think perhaps you can train yourself to cultivate them and identify them during and after they occur. 

Kyle Schwarber of the Washington Nationals at bat

For me, a signal is spontaneous tears. I usually don’t cry when I am sad or fearful. I feel the tears creeping out of my ducts when I somehow reach some precious connection, those seconds of sharing something rare and unique when two people touch one another. It’s that instant of insight, or synchrony that makes me feel human and special. It might be a memory, lost forever you thought, that pours through your body and empties out in precious teardrops. Speech becomes a stammer. You wish you could bottle it and be able to return to it whenever you need it. But you can’t, and you know it.

Noah and I were sharing a few special moments yesterday in a conversation across the big round table my father and I used to share. We were talking about our family, how hard it is to make lifelong friends, and a malady we both share. We both occasionally have simple partial epileptic seizures, in which our hearing gets uncomfortably loud for a few minutes. They often come at inconvenient times. I told him how I tried to fake my way through them over the years, and he related how he bluffed his way through one when he was walking down the aisle during his wedding.

It was a special moment of candor between father and son, when we thought we’d be talking about the relative values of used automatic screw machines. You don’t plan for those moments. They come from trust and honesty and something deep in your gut. 

You can’t reach for them. You have to be like Kyle Schwarber, batting lead-off, smelling the breaking pitch on the inside half of the plate, then swinging at the perfect millisecond to intersect bat and ball. You have to feel it in the most stupid, brilliant way, then savor it in your gut as you round the bases with fans cheering, unconscious in the perfect moment.

Question: When was the last time you were caught up in a special moment?

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Opening Up!

By Noah Graff

Yesterday evening my wife, Stephanie, and I stopped to get gas. As I fueled up, a man named Danny, on the other side of the pumps fueling his own car, struck up a conversation with me. You know that special breed of people who walk into a room, almost always smiling, beaming their positive energy onto everyone? Danny is one of those guys.

He commented to me about the crazy high gas prices in Illinois, currently in the $3.30 per gallon range. I told him about the gas prices in California, where I was last week, which are over $4.00. I was tired after a long day of work, but suddenly I was uplifted. We both commented how nice it was to be chatting with a complete stranger on a sunny summer day without wearing annoying face masks, and without concern about germs or concern that the other person would be afraid of our own germs.

Danny introduced himself and seemed like he was starting to put out his hand. But I extended my elbow and bumped his—now the modern introductory gesture. We laughed about how stupid handshakes really are. I remarked that the custom of bowing in Asia makes so much more sense, and no wonder Italy had had trouble containing the virus in a culture where it’s normal to greet people with multiple kisses on the cheeks!

Noah and Danny Meeting at the Pump

Pre-Covid-19, this would have been a fairly typical interaction for me. I love talking to strangers. I completed a personal goal of meeting at least one new person every day from May 19, 2018, to May 19, 2019. Meeting strangers is something that makes my life interesting and serendipitous. It also makes the world feel less isolated. Two strangers meeting can be like nuclear fusion—their combined energy becomes greater than their sum.

Today Chicago officially “opens up!” Soon after this blog is published, I am closing up the laptop and meeting up with a customer visiting from Japan. I’m taking him to Wrigley Field for the first Cubs home game of the season with seating at full capacity.

Good possibility I’m going to talk to some more strangers.

Questions: Do you like talking to strangers?

Are handshakes stupid? Will you switch to a new type of greeting?

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Making the Most of My Life?

By Noah Graff

What the heck did I do last month? What did I do last week? What did I do today? Do you ever ask yourself those questions? 

The last three years, I’ve written in a diary nearly every day. It takes me about 10 to 30 minutes to recount the day’s main events and then ramble about my reflections and feelings. I also try to take a selfie photo each day to go along with the diary entries that I type into my iPhone or computer.

I write because I want to make sure the memory of each specific day is not lost. Life keeps feeling like it’s going faster and faster, and sometimes I have trouble recounting what I did just hours earlier, let alone years ago.

I think I’m hung up on a fear that I am squandering my one precious life on this earth. It’s important to me to know that each day mattered. What would “mattering” entail? To me, a day that mattered would mean I created something, learned something, tried something new, or helped someone. Spending time with loved ones also makes my days count. 

Noah’s Diary, June 8, 2021

While writing this blog, I looked up what I did on June 9, 2018,—three years ago today. I was on my bachelor party weekend in New Buffalo, Michigan, a special day that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. I also read that on June 9, 2020, I almost sold a Tschudin grinder, did a great podcast interview, made dinner with my wife Stephanie, and watched a Chicago Bulls documentary.

In 2021, I also started writing down at least one new thing I learned each day. Yesterday, I learned from a colleague that a thread whirling live tool attachment for a Citizen machine could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. I also learned from a business partner that putting sugar in bread dough slows down yeast activity, because “yeast likes to eat sugar.”

I think my paranoia about squandering my time on earth may represent a longing for greater purpose. Maybe if I was fighting for a human rights cause, maybe if I was raising children, perhaps then I would worry less about my days being lived to their potential. If I felt like I was doing more things that left a tangible mark on the world, maybe I wouldn’t feel like I needed to document every day.

Do a lot of people ponder this stuff all the time? Would most people find my daily ritual unnecessary?

I have to stop writing now. It’s 12:30 PM, and I haven’t even documented June 8, 2021, yet.

Question: What makes a specific day significant for you?

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A Year of Misery and Vitality

By Lloyd Graff

It is finally a moment to look back on the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020 and think about the changes in America it has hastened. Many of them would have happened over time but were dramatically sped up by sickness and recovery. 

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First, healthcare. The astonishing development of the mRNA vaccines to quickly spur immunity with minimal side effects will go down as one of the greatest advances in medicine in a hundred years. The Turkish husband and wife team in Germany and the Moderna scientists in America had both been working on their ideas for more than a decade when the first whiff of COVID-19, wherever it came from, showed up and immediately started the wheels turning.

The COVID-19 vaccines showed America that the entrepreneurial medical system with a profit motive could move faster than any government organized medical system. The Turkish couple in Germany heading BioeNTech almost immediately teamed with Pfizer in America, headed by Albert Bourla, a Jewish Greek immigrant, to get a vaccine into production and accepted by a timid medical bureaucracy.

A second important shift was telemedicine replacing physical appointments. This was in its infancy prior to the pandemic, but with lockdown and rampant fear it quickly became a viable substitute for a large percentage of office appointments. In business we have seen similar changes.

***

The Great Office Boom from 2010 to 2019 vanished overnight. The WeWork fad of shared office space quickly became a joke as the downtown offices of huge law firms and major corporations lay vacant except for venturesome mice and lonely janitors. Zoom tied everything together, business travel virtually ended, and hotels and restaurants lay fallow.

Will downtown offices, commuter trains, and business entertaining come back? Unlikely, I think. In Silicon Valley Google, Facebook, and others have quickly decentralized. People are leaving New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and heading for Provo and Austin. Will they come back? Unlikely, unless taxes fall, housing costs shrink, and city crime turns into mass friendliness. 

These are fairly obvious shifts, but they are so hugely important that I had to discuss them first. But there are also more subtle changes that I see. 

The used machinery business is good again. In fact it is better than good, unless you are dedicated to the oil patch. For the first time since the late 1990s, almost every metal working business in America is busy. Yes, we have inflation of steel prices and non-ferrous metals, and it is hard to find workers, but if you pay enough for either you can keep rolling. 

The new minimum wage is $20 per hour, or soon will be. A person can finally make a middle-class living as a machinist, and this will draw people to the field who no longer want starvation wages in the restaurant and travel business. 

Housing is hot again, with cheap interest rates and people on the move. Also, younger people can finally afford to get a starter house if they are willing to leave stagnant, overpriced cities for smaller, overlooked locations.

And, young people are starting to go into business for themselves. It may be a side business like baking bagels and selling them at a farmer’s market, or starting an interior decorating business to help people who are moving or help people staying in their homes, who want them updated to provide the office space they need.

Certainly one reason I think the back to work numbers seem light to the “experts” is fat unemployment benefits, but another reason is the multitude of new opportunities to begin side businesses or work quietly for untaxed cash. 

In our business, we have looked to retired people and entrepreneurial skilled people to fill holes for us. I am sure we are not alone. 

America is still an entrepreneurial country. I look for immigration, legal and illegal, to expand as a post-pandemic boom widens. The toll of COVID-19 has been terrible, but when we look back on the Post-Corona years, it will be astonishing to see the vitality unleashed.

Question: What positive changes do you see following COVID-19?

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Ep. 118 – Coping with Stress at Work with Darcy Gruttadaro

By Noah Graff

Today is the final episode of our series about mental health in the workplace.

 

Our guest is Darcy Gruttadaro, Director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation. Darcy’s organization works with companies of all sizes, giving them tools to support the mental health of their employees. She says that having a warm and social atmosphere in the workplace is more important than ever to keep people relaxed during these stressful times. 

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

 

 

Main Points

Darcy explains how her organization works with employers of all sizes to develop programs, tools, and resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees and their families. (2:30)

Darcy talks about how she got into her profession. She has family members with serious mental health issues. She was a lawyer and had worked with some hospital clients related to their psychiatric units, work that she found interesting and important. She moved to Washington D.C. to work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), doing policy work mostly related to the public sector. She then joined the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, where she works with private employers to improve their mental health programs. (3:40)

Darcy says in the two and half years before COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, the number of companies taking an interest in the mental health of their employees was growing. However, when COVID-19 came into the forefront of people’s lives, the interest of companies in the mental health of their employees increased dramatically. (5:00)

Darcy Gruttadaro, Director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health

Darcy says that her organization provides employers with support around raising mental health awareness, eradicating stigma, and breaking down various barriers that stop people from getting help when they need it. It also works with employers to develop strategies to build a more mentally healthy company culture, so employees feel more safe getting mental help when they need it. Finally, it works to make mental health therapy accessible. She says most health insurance provides access to mental health care, but it’s important for employers to help employees navigate the mental health system, which is often complicated. (5:50) 

Darcy compares the mental health issues faced by people who are mandated to work at home to those faced by people mandated to work in factories during the current pandemic. She says since March of 2020, the CDC has been collecting weekly pulse data showing that nationally the number of people experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression has tripled. (9:30)

Darcy discusses data that shows many people prefer not to work at home because they find the social connection with colleagues in the workplace to be comforting. On the other hand, she says many people go to work feeling anxious about COVID-19 but hide their feelings from colleagues and employers because they think they will look weak or flawed. She says when people allow negative stigma to prevent them getting the mental help they need it can lead to suicide. She says openness to talking about mental health in manufacturing environments is not prevalent enough. (11:10)

Darcy says that depression impacts women at a higher rate than it impacts men. She says she thinks it’s likely there is greater risk for substance abuse among men working in physical jobs, who may be using alcohol or painkillers to cope with pain suffered on the job. She says the stoic culture of people in trades such as manufacturing makes it less likely that they will get the mental help they need, but she admits she is not sure what research has found in this scenario. (13:20)

Darcy advises that business owners and leaders not be afraid to show some vulnerability to their employees because it can make them feel more at ease with their own mental issues. Also, it helps for leaders to simply tell people they realize the difficult and stressful times everyone is going through. She says it’s important for people to get professional help as soon as possible, because the longer people allow mental health issues to linger, the greater toll they take. (14:50)

Darcy talks about traveling through Texas where she saw an entire crew at a construction site stretching together before work. She talks about a utility company that had workers do group meditation to quiet their minds, help them focus, and prevent injury. She says management taking time for employees to do self-care activities demonstrates to them it cares about them, which has positive effects on moral. (18:00)

Darcy says during our current stressful time period it is more important than ever for people at work to be social with one another because people by nature need social connection. She prescribes that managers reach out to employees working remotely via video teleconference to tell them that they know they are going through difficult times. Even if people role their eyes or poo poo the gesture, it still makes employees feel cared about. (19:20)

Noah asks Darcy her predictions about widespread mental health when the pandemic is over and things “get back to normal.” She says there will be some strong concerns about mental health for at least three years, particularly for kids or teens, whose lives were drastically disrupted in 2020. However she says that after this difficult period people may have also developed resilience to difficult situations and learned new coping strategies. She says it will be important for managers to remind employees how they have weathered the storm together but still need need to stick together. (21:30)

Darcy talks about mental health in several different countries. Canada has voluntary workplace mental health standards that employers are asked to follow, which California is currently trying to emulate. In the United Kingdom the Royal Family has taken an interest in creating organizations that support workplace mental health. (24:00)

Darcy says to her the word “happiness” means feeling settled, feeling like you’re contributing to the world, having purpose, and looking forward to every day (26:30)

Noah asks Darcy what she learned last week. She said she relearned how much work (and fun) it is to get a new puppy. (27:00)

To learn more about the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Association Foundation go to workplacementalhealth.org.

Question: Do you prefer working around a lot of people, or very few people?

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A Present for a Big Birthday

By Lloyd Graff

(The comments section on our website is live again so please give me your thoughts.)

My wife, Risa, will celebrate a big birthday next week, and I do not know what to give her. I have considered the usual presents–jewelry, clothes, a trip. None seem right.

This brings back a conversation that I had with my father a couple of years after my mother had died. We often talked about business, and he told me many stories about his family and his youth but very little about his relationship with his wife. 

A few years before he died, about five years after my mom had died, I visited him in Florida by myself. He was in an unusually pensive mood one night, and he told me with great feeling that he wished he’d “given her more jewelry.” 

I was shocked by the remark because it had never occurred to me that she lacked for rings or pins or necklaces. 

I filed the comment away, but I was seeing a psychotherapist at the time and asked him about the phrase that had struck a nerve in me. He said “the jewelry” was not gold or diamonds. It was a substitute term for love and sex. I had never heard that before, but I guess it runs through the therapy literature.

I can honestly say that I have given, and am still giving Risa all my love at the age of 76, but I still want to give her a memorable gift that is not a nightgown or a sweater on this big birthday.

COVID-19 has definitely been a problem for us this year. We haven’t traveled to California to visit my daughter and family for well over a year, and they have not visited us since last February. We have seen our Chicago family, but the visits have been short and masked, except for the month when Noah and his wife lived with us. With our second vaccination shots coming up soon, we hope to improve on that, but the steps will be cautious for a while.

This year we had a 50th Anniversary Zoom party, and we have family Zoom sessions frequently.

I am stumped for a memorable present that defies the commonplace. I am sure you have faced the issue of giving a gift that will be valued and remembered.

As a couple, we have been truly blessed. We live in America and have the joys of affluence. Everybody our age has health issues, but both of us get to work rather than have to work. We also exercise and read.

I have some ideas, and I still have enough time to move on them, but I would also like to hear about presents that you have given to a special person on a special day. 

(The comments section on our website is live again so please give me your thoughts. )

Question: What is your suggestion for a present for my wife’s 70th birthday?

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Ep. 106 – The Machining World of 2020, with Noah and Lloyd Graff

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

On today’s show we’re looking back on the year 2020.

Obviously, it was a tough year for the majority of people around the world. Loved ones were taken away, and many businesses couldn’t stay afloat. There were a lot of things that sucked. But there were a few pleasant surprises along the way as well. People adapted, they embraced limitations, and even found new opportunities for success.

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

 

 

Main Points

Lloyd says that one of the first things that comes to mind when he thinks of 2020 is his fear of getting COVID-19. He says his brain is constantly occupied by considering all of the safety precautions he has to take. (1:55)

Noah says he is tired of everyone talking about COVID-19 almost as much as he is tired of the actual presence of the virus. (2:30)

Lloyd says one interesting trend he has noticed in 2020 is that despite Tesla’s stock quadrupling and the media’s dire predictions about man made climate change, Americans are buying a lot of SUVs and trucks, rather than electric cars. He says this should be a positive signal for the precision machining industry that the internal combustion engine is going to stay relevant for a while. (3:13)

Noah and Lloyd comment about a weak cam multi-spindle market in 2020 and remark that CNC multi-spindles are too expensive for a lot of endusers. (5:10)

Lloyd talks about how the PPP was a successful governmental program despite the fact that some fraudsters took advantage of it. He says the PPP was essential for medium and small companies when business fell apart in April. He says if it had not been for the PPP small businesses would have been decimated and the supply chain would have been in disarray. However, it was not as successful for various small businesses who didn’t have relationships with good bankers. The big question now is if the PPP money will be taxed. This will affect a lot of businesses, including Graff-Pinkert. (5:30)

Noah says used CNC Swiss machines were a very hot item in 2020.  Lloyd says companies had great years if they were in the firearms business or doing medical work related to fighting COVID-19. However, medical work for applications other than fighting the pandemic was soft because many medical procedures were postponed while hospitals focused on fighting COVID-19. Also the commercial aerospace business was soft because of Boeing’s internal problems and less people flying. (7:30)

Noah and Lloyd remark that despite the CNC Swiss boom, Graff-Pinkert recently bought several cam multi-spindles including an ACME-GRIDLEY 1-1/4” RB-8 and 1-5/8” RBN-8. Lloyd says that it could be a good year in automotive because of a strong demand for SUVs. (11:15)

Lloyd says a surprising trend in 2020 was that the stock market thrived despite the pandemic. Not only are all the major stock indexes at all time highs, profits for major companies are also expected to be at all time highs. However, this does not include the oil companies, who had terrible years. (12:40)

Lloyd says that using Zoom to communicate with family was something significant for him in 2020. He has not seen has not seen his grandchildren in California for a year, but he feels like he has stayed close to them. (13:40)

Noah talks about he and his wife, Stephanie, moving in with his parents for the month of October while their condo was having work done. The ability for Stephanie to do her work via Zoom made it possible. While Noah went to the office at Graff-Pinkert, Lloyd, Risa, and Stephanie all enjoyed sharing a communal workspace at home. (14:30)

Lloyd says he personally knows many people leaving big cities like New York to move near their parents because the ability to work remotely has enabled them to go wherever they want. He says rent prices in New York are decreasing and real estate markets in places like Phoenix, Arizona, or Boise, Idaho, are booming. (16:00)

Noah says one thing he is looking forward to in 2020 is continuing to produce the Swarfcast podcast. He says it is fulfilling to him to provide listeners with helpful knowledge and entertainment. (18:40)

Lloyd and Noah reflect on whether more young people are going into manufacturing. Noah says he meets a lot of young people when selling machines. Still, he is not sure whether the owners of the companies he meets are indicative of the overall workforce in the machining industry. Lloyd ponders why more African Americans don’t go into the machining business. (19:20)

Lloyd says in 2021 he is looking forward to not talking about COVID-19, not fearing the pandemic, and being together with his family again. (21:30)

Noah says he appreciates that the pandemic has influenced he and his wife to spend more time with his brother and nephew because they have less choices of people to see and activities to do. He hopes they continue to do this after the pandemic ends. (22:00)

Noah and Lloyd discuss their favorite TV shows they binge watched in 2020. Lloyd says Outlander was his favorite show. He also liked The Right Stuff and Tehran. Noah also liked Outlander and Tehran, and lately he has gotten into watching The Mandalorian. (24:30)

Noah and Lloyd end the interview saying that one of the best parts of 2020 was getting to work together—usually. (27:30)

Questions: What are you looking forward to in 2021?

What favorite TV shows did you binge watch in 2020?

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A Divided Holiday?

By Lloyd Graff

The election is over and still the country is divided. No. Not Trump vs. Biden. I’m talking about getting together for Thanksgiving.

COVID-19 has messed up holiday planning. My wife Risa and I have not physically been with our California family for almost a year. We see each other on Zoom frequently and talk over the phone several times a week. We send lots of photos, do game nights, and even have an occasional party, but there is no popcorn via the Internet. 

We long for the hugs, the breakfast coffee together, the kids walking into our bedroom to schmooze or crochet or complain about school. This you don’t get long-distance, no matter how close your family is.

Along with millions of other stupid, lonely Americans, we have decided to take the risk having our family fly in to celebrate Thanksgiving together. I guess an equal number of folks have decided it is not worth the risk.

people on a plane wear masks during the pandemic

Thanksgiving travel plans are riskier this year

This will not be a “carve the turkey, watch half of a football game, and wave goodbye.” My daughter and family will fly enmasse to Chicago and stay for 10 days. They plan to quarantine quite tightly for a week before leaving and take COVID tests shortly before they travel. Assuming they are all okay, they will figure out the safest way to get to the airport, wear masks and visors at the airport and on the plane, and keep their two rows of seats as virus-free as possible. We will drive two cars to the airport, leave one, and direct them to the parked vehicle when they arrive. They will drive themselves to our house. We have a big enough house to allow Risa and I to keep our distance. Despite these precautions, I do understand we are taking a risk as the pandemic reaches a holiday peak.

Risa and I have played it pretty safe all year. She had heart surgery in January, so we both classify as threatened old people who have had open heart surgery. But she has gone to the hairdresser several times, and we both have had friends come to the house. Noah and his wife just stayed with us for 28 days while they had extensive work done on their condo.

We have all had our scares. If you are not living in an igloo alone, you are going to imagine and really believe you have COVID at some point. Two people at Graff-Pinkert recently got over mild cases of the scourge.

Our family has made its call. We will be together for Thanksgiving. Noah and his wife Stephanie plan to be with us. My son Ari is still undecided about what he will do. He works in a rehab facility and lately has been doing group therapy with people who have had very bad COVID experiences. He also physically sees patients as a psychologist. He is very COVID conscious. Over the last several months our visits have been masked and mainly outside. 

I want to know what you folks are planning for Thanksgiving. Maybe we can share some helpful ideas that can lessen the risk. Holiday visiting is a gamble. We are going to take the risk with genuine trepidation. How about you?

Question: Is it a stupid idea this year for family to fly in for Thanksgiving?

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Ep. 102 – Growing a Community of Passionate Customers, with George Breiwa

By Noah Graff

On today’s episode we continue our season talking about companies who produce their own products.

Our guest is George Breiwa, founder of DynaVap, a company that produces a unique type of vaporizer, using Index multi-spindles and CNC Swiss lathes. George says that one of the keys to the company’s success is growing and nurturing a community of passionate customers.

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

 

 

Main Points

George describes DynaVap’s VapCap 2020 M vaporizer, which he prefers to refer to as a selective thermal extraction tool. To operate the VapCap M a user removes a temperature indicating cap and places a chosen substance (often dry herb) for consumption inside the extraction chamber. Then the user applies a portable heat source to the VapCap such as a lighter. George also showcases a battery powered induction heater that can be used with the VapCap. (3:10) 

George talks about the differences between thermal extraction (using a vaporizer) and smoking. He says that when burning a smokable substance, portions of it are burned away rather than extracted, whereas with thermal extraction, the plant material is heated to a temperature where the active compounds evaporate and can be extracted, leaving everything else behind with minimal chemical changes a no incomplete combustion byproducts like tar, resin and carbon monoxide. (Fingers crossed that I summarized him correctly!) (5:05)

Noah asks George about the health ramifications of using DynaVap’s vaporizer. George says health and safety depends on the substance being extracted and if it is done in moderation. He suggests that using a VapCap is a healthier alternative to smoking. (6:40)

George describes how DynaVap’s products are machined. Tube stock is custom drawn at the mill in variable thicknesses to manufacture the various parts. Again, he shows the 2020 M VapCap, which does not require tools to assemble or disassemble its four parts. The 2020 M can be purchased in a variety of colors. George describes one color called rosium (see video), which he describes as pink, gold, and blue with a little bit of green. The color is produced through a process called PVD (physical vapor deposition), which he says is very commonly used when producing carbide cutting tools for CNC machines. He also describes another model the company sells called AzuriuM, which starts as blue but changes to several different colors when exposed to heat. (8:40)

George talks about the value proposition of DynaVap’s product, which uses an external heat source (like a lighter) rather than using a built-in battery like a typical vaporizer. He says the VapCap’s small size and portability are significant advantages. DynaVap’s products can fit in a person’s pocket and also are extremely durable because they don’t have sensitive electronic parts. He says a person can throw a VapCap on the ground or even drive over it with a car and it will hold up. He says he is confident DynaVap’s products will remain functional for 20 to 30 years if taken care of properly, and the only parts that may need to be replaced are the o-rings.(12:30)

George talks about how DynaVap makes its products. He says the tip is machined on an INDEX multi-spindle (MS22-8 with double NCU). (14:20)

George discusses the company’s approach to marketing its products. DynaVap focuses primarily on growing relationships with the customers it already has, giving them the tools and knowledge to talk about the product with others. He says the primary way people are introduced to the product is by personal interaction with others who already have it. (16:05)

George talks about the impact of building a community around a product. He says many of DynaVap’s customers learn about its products in online communities like Reddit. He says the ability to customize a product to suit a personal preference is highly appealing to the company’s customers. DynaVap designs its products so that creative people can customize certain components. It shares necessary dimensions with the public and even supplies certain materials for customers to make after-market accessories like interchangeable stems. Meanwhile, the high-precision parts are still made by DynaVap. DynaVap’s community of users post photos online of their homemade components. (18:50)

George explains that the starting cost of a DynaVap vaporizer is $75, while the top of the line models sell for $180-190. (21:05)

George says the most important factor in the company’s growth is its user community and “social proof.” This wasn’t something he initially realized, but he discovered that the more the company supported and engaged with customers, the more the customers shared their love of the products with others. (22:30)

George talks about how the DynaVap’s numerous online videos show how passionate he is about the company’s products. (23:55)

George says that getting customers to have a great experience with a product requires educating them. He says DynaVap devices are simple to use, but they do require users to learn how to operate them properly. He draws a comparison to a chef’s knife. Most people know how to use a knife, but how many people do so correctly? (25:00)

George states that while using DynaVap devices may seem to require more work than similar products, few customers seem concerned. The company’s user community also provides resources to overcome the initial learning curve. (26:35)

George says community enrichment of customers is a very important aspect of bringing a new product to market. He says if the customers don’t know who you are and you don’t know who your customers are, then you need to familiarize yourself and engage with them, or you will not be successful. (27:55)

George shares something he recently learned. He reports that traveling to Europe right now is not difficult. He just spent two weeks in Amsterdam on business. He traveled on commercial airlines in major airports and experienced no issues or concerns. His COVID-19 test was negative upon his return. (28:30)

Question: What online communities do you belong to?

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