As the end of 2021 approaches, Lloyd and I spent this podcast reflecting on the last year. Though the pandemic continued for a second lap, a lot of companies in the machining business enjoyed a tremendous rebound. Thankfully for us, our used machinery business, Graff-Pinkert, did really well too, which we needed after a miserable 2020.
If you find time to listen to this episode, we hope you will enjoy our rambling. We like to think there are at least a few interesting parts of the conversation.
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When I introduced Lloyd at the start of the podcast, I referred to him as my dad, my boss, my mentor, and my partner. He responded by saying he considered me as mentor to him, which seemed a bit strange, as he has been selling used machines since before I was born and he’s one of the smartest people I know.
He told me that I have taught him about engaging customers on a deep level as well as negotiation principles from one of my favorite business books, Never Split the Difference.
I told him that I’ve tried to learn from the way he envisions potential deals. He is skilled at knowing when to take a chance on imperfect equipment that other buyers shy away from.
A Good Year for Graff-Pinkert
I’m happy to say that 2021 was an excellent year for Graff-Pinkert, which we really needed because 2020 was so horrible. Interestingly, much of our best business was selling old cam multi-spindle screw machines—Acme-Gridley machines and a lot of Davenports sold to Mexico. Two or three years ago, nobody wanted these machines. We had a few nice ones that sat in our warehouse for years. But in 2021, were fortunate that while other dealers were hunting for the same popular modern CNC equipment, we were looking for different types of machines, machines that are often older than me, which many sellers were more than ready to part with.
Stitch em up, Sew em up
A big trend we saw in 2021 was the huge production of medical and gun parts, sometimes even by the same companies. Those parts have huge demand right now, while the automotive sector remains cold.
Personally, Lloyd and I are not “gun people.” But at the end of the day, we accept that guns are how our customers make a living. Some of our most important relationships happen to be with companies producing gun parts.
Lloyd says in the machinery business he often grapples about which companies he feels comfortable doing business with. Graff-Pinkert does not sell machines to Russia nor many other countries where we feel the governments are unjust. Yet, ironically, we still sell machines to China despite the country’s human rights violations and current genocide of the Uyghurs.
Another milestone of 2021 is that there was finally real manufacturing work coming back from Asia to North America. The supply chain bottlenecks have meant that US companies can no longer feel secure they will get the materials and products they need. Ford Motor Company is even building its own chip making factory.
Lloyd recently bought stock in Ford Motor Company going into the new year. He says when Ford hired former Tesla visionary Doug Field, it was indicative that the company will succeed in selling electric F150 trucks in 2022, beating its American competitors in the electric truck race. Meanwhile, the European automotive companies seem inept at getting a viable electric car on the street.
An Unvaccinated Machining Industry?
One thing we observed in 2021 is that despite the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the US, a great number of people in the machining industry have preferred to stay unvaccinated. I’ve asked some of Graff-Pinkert’s unvaccinated customers why they’re not vaccinated, and I get a number of answers. Some people say they don’t want to take the vaccine because they feel the government is trying to take away their freedom, others say that the science is unproven. My opinion is that most people are strongly influenced by those with whom they spend the majority of their time. I live in the city of Chicago, and all of my friends and family are vaccinated. They would tell me I was nuts if I was not vaccinated. However, if all of the people I was closest to were unvaccinated, I suppose it’s possible I would follow their example.
Nonetheless, I have my views. I know several unvaccinated people and I still like them, but their decision bothers me a lot because I believe they are putting me, my family, and the general population more at risk.
Announcement! I’m ecstatic (and overwhelmed) to say that my wife, Stephanie, is pregnant with our first child, and she happens to be the biggest anti-anti-vaxxer I know! I digress. Becoming a future father after a long time of unsuccessful “trying” is by far the most important thing to happen in my life in a long time.
Lloyd says he’s grateful to have celebrated the 13th anniversary of his near fatal heart attack in 2008. He’s also grateful to continue doing work he enjoys at a high level at the age of 76 along side me. We’re both thankful that we have a great family we love spending time with, who we finally visited in person this year.
I look forward to doing this podcast next year. I’m often desperately looking for new guests, so please contact me if you know of someone who would be good. FYI, I also happen to be picky about who I interview. Desperate but picky. The story of so many people’s lives.
Question: What is something you will remember from 2021?