More Than Seven Questions on My Mind

By Lloyd Graff

These are a few questions on my mind. I think you get smarter by asking questions, not showing off how much you know.

***

1) Does CBD oil work for you? I have experimented with it after friends told me it worked wonders for them. Here’s what I have found. It helps with the arthritic pain in my thumb and index finger of my left hand. It isn’t miraculous, but it is useful. My sore knees and shoulder don’t seem to improve from it.

How do you use it?

Do you have a brand that is superior, or is it all the same brown, smelly stuff?

2) If you have some money to invest and you have no taste for hoarding cash, gold, or collectibles, where do you put it? Would you go into business with a CNC mill or lathe?

Let’s say you are 40 years old and plan to work 25 more years. Would you look for real estate, perhaps a fixer-upper? Would you buy as much house as you can afford and hope for appreciation while you enjoy living in it? 

Would you consider the stock market? If you have a taste for equities, would you buy tiny amounts of high-priced stocks like Amazon and Google, or buy a low priced stock, hoping it will become the next Apple or Costco? 

Would you look for an advisor who, for a fee, invests for you and others? Would you put it in a fund like Fidelity or Vanguard that spreads it out over a huge number of stocks, figuring it is impossible for an individual to beat the averages over time.

3) Is Bitcoin a gigantic fraud or the next big thing? Right now it is on a huge roll. Cryptocurrencies have achieved credibility, but maybe it is a huge Ponzi scheme. It is still difficult to use Bitcoin to buy much, but smart guys like Elon Musk think it is real money.

4) Is the electric vehicle really going to take over the bulk of the transportation industry over the next 10 years or is it way overhyped? Tesla is the only manufacturer to get any traction, and many believe that its growth is primarily because of government subsidies and the flamboyance of Elon Musk.

Ford, GM, Volkswagen, and BMW all proclaim they are going all-electric. Do you believe them? Are you planning on buying an electric vehicle over the next few years? Do you really think electric vehicles will save the world’s environment?

5) This brings up my next question. Do you believe climate change is an existential threat to you personally? To America? To the world? I have my doubts, but I’m over 70, so nobody really cares. Do you think about climate change every day and do your small part to limit it?

6) Is saving the environment today’s religion? Has it replaced Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as the true religion of the day for many young people?

7) I will end with a big one. Are you a racist? Many African Americans say that if you are not black and have been brought up in America, you are racist by definition. I think there may well be some truth to this claim, not because every non-black person raised here is full of hatred, but because our society has taught us to think and behave that way. Do you agree?

These are not easy questions, but hopefully they will make you think. Maybe even write a comment.

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Ep. 117 – Mental Recovery with Dr. Ari Graff

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we are continuing our season about mental health.

Our guest is Dr. Ari Graff, a psychologist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a nationally ranked rehabilitation research hospital based in Chicago. Patients come to Shirley Ryan to recover from severe illnesses and injuries. Dr. Graff’s job is to help patients mentally heal from the emotional trauma that comes along with being damaged physically.

The opinions in this podcast episode are solely those of Dr. Graff. They are not on behalf of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

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

 

 

 

Main Points

Noah introduces Dr. Ari Graff, who happens to be his older brother. Ari has been a practicing psychologist for the last 14 years. He has a private practice doing therapy mainly with adults, and he also has been working at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for 11 years. The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a rehabilitation center for people who have suffered severe illnesses and injuries such as strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputees. (2:30)

Ari is the psychologist of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s outpatient clinic. Patients there are in the process of intense rehabilitation, often doing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. (4:00)

Ari says he sees around half of the roughly 150 patients who attend the clinic throughout the week, usually seeing patients only once for an hour. Sometimes patients request to a see a psychologist, but often they are referred to him by their rehab team or a physician. He says often he is the first mental health specialist patients have ever worked with. Generally they are not expecting to speak with a psychologist because they have been focusing all of their energy on their physical recovery. (5:20) 

Ari says it surprised him at first how much impact just one hour-long session can have for patients. He says they get a chance to feel understood about what they are going through. They learn about what to expect from rehab. They also hopefully gain a better understanding of their own mental state. (6:40)

Ari says a common issue rehab patients have is that they don’t feel like they are in control. Becoming disabled is difficult for people to adjust to. One thing Ari tries to help them cope with is the uncertainty whether they will recover from their current disability.(9:00) 

Ari says he tries to make people focus on the things they have control over rather than what they can’t control. He encourages people focus on their diet, sleep, and ability to manage stress. He encourages people to try to understand their condition and limitations. He also suggests to patients to communicate with their doctors and health providers to understand the recovery process and to advocate for themselves. (10:00)

Ari says it’s important for him to educate patients about what to expect during the rehabilitation process. He says after a stroke or injury to the brain, the brain needs time to recover. Research says this recovery usually happens in six months to a year, so it’s important for patients not to feel frustrated when they are not back to normal quickly. He says it’s important to give people hope as well as realistic expectations. (12:00)

Ari talks about the mental recovery for people who have been injured on the job. He says those people might have anxiety about going back to work. It’s important for them to process their feelings about how they were injured and process feelings of blame for coworkers, as well as blame for themselves. (14:00)

Ari talks about people he works with who are recovering from severe cases of COVID-19. Some people suffer the effects of being on ventilator for a month or two. Some people are weak or immobile after being in bed for a long time. Others suffer brain injuries if not enough oxygen gets to their brain. People also suffer psychological trauma from the illness, particularly if they were not able to see their loved ones while in the hospital. (15:00)

Noah asks Ari if he has advice for people whose coworkers are exhibiting mental health problems. Ari says some companies have employee assistance programs that provide some limited mental health support. He says it’s probably tricky for a coworker or boss to help another worker seek mental health support. (18:00)

Dr. Ari Graff, Psychologist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Ari compares talk therapy with prescribing medication to help people with their mental health. He believes both methods of therapy can be helpful if administered the right way. He says people should not assume that prescription medication is being abused. He says that sometimes for patients he sees at the rehab center, opioids can be very helpful for them during a physical therapy session when their pain would otherwise be so excruciating it could hinder doing their rehab exercises. (19:00)

Ari talks about helping his patients manage their pain. He says that pain is not just a physical experience. It’s a cognitive experience, an emotional experience, and even a spiritual experience. He says research has shown that negative thoughts and emotions have the power to increase pain while positive ones can alleviate it. He uses therapy methods such as mindfulness and meditation, which can help people observe their thought processes about pain and then start to make shifts from a negative to a more positive and realistic thought process. (22:00)

Noah asks Ari if everyone could benefit from therapy. Ari says he thinks most people could get something out of therapy, but there are a lot of different types of therapy available, so people need to find their right fit. He says it is important for people to attend to their mental health the same way they attend to their physical health. (24:00)

Ari says to him the word “happiness” means contentment, fulfillment, and purpose. He says that most people desire a sense of meaning in their lives, not just joy. (26:00)

Ari says people in recovery need to know that they can find value in themselves, even if they have limitations. He says our culture emphasizes measuring people by how much they can produce and achieve, but people need to know that we all have intrinsic value. (26:30)

Ari explains mindfulness, which is an important method he uses in his therapy. He explains it as non-judgmental attention to our present experience. It’s a way to be, without trying to fix or do something in the moment. He says it is important for people to be aware that they can still find value in life—take some downtime for pleasure, interact with family members, etc., while still working toward their big goals. (27:00)

Ari concludes by saying that people should not see their medical problems only as a setback. He says the people who cope the best with their problems are those who look at their situation as an opportunity to learn or grow from. Instead of only seeing their injury in a negative light, its helpful for people to try to find the positives they can get out of it. (28:45)

Question: When has therapy helped you or your loved one?

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Resilience

By Lloyd Graff

Noah challenged me yesterday as he often does. He said to me, “Dad, what three things have you learned in the last week?” 

The question forced me to assess what thoughts have had an impact on me, something I seldom do unless I am writing a daily diary. 

This week I’ve learned about resilience.

***

I have been corresponding with a casual friend who used to live in my neighborhood. She and her husband, a doctor, moved to Buffalo for a medical position more than a decade ago. He was struck down by a near fatal heart attack a month ago.

The story was so eerily familiar to my own. Doctor Mike and his wife Barbara drove to the hospital because he was feeling lousy but not awful enough to call an ambulance. The nurse listened to his heart, quickly called the emergency room and cardiologist, and Dr. Mike was whisked off to surgery.

A quintuple bypass operation in the nick of time barely saved his life. Since then, he has been in and out of the ICU, and on and off of a ventilator. He has suffered from arrhythmias and scared his wife almost to death. Part of her therapy has been to write to family and friends.

Because of COVID, only one person has been able to visit Mike at a time. The couple had recently moved to the Washington DC area where their daughter and grandchildren live, but there are very few people there who they know.

My connection with Barbara is that I can tell her about what it is like to have a heart attack, almost die, and live to tell my story 12.5 years later. It lifted her spirits and her children’s to learn of my experience. When you see your husband for days and days on a ventilator, hear the fears of the doctors that flit in and out, always cautious and frequently covering their behinds by telling the possible worst case scenarios, the time passes slowly.

I was happy to relate a real best case outcome for her to take home to her lonely apartment in DC. My wife, Risa, also wrote, telling Barbara what it was like for her when I was in the hospital.

Mike was supposed to come home today after more than a week of ups and downs in a rehab facility. Risa knows what it is like to be the first line of defense when there are no medical professionals around.

I was never that close to Mike and Barbara in Chicago, but this experience has brought us together. I wrote to her a few days ago, telling her that the fear never totally goes away. Live every day. 

Resilience.

***

Another story of resilience Risa told me about yesterday concerns the daughter of her Tae Kwon Do Master who lost her teenage daughter to cancer two years ago. She also suffers from multiple sclerosis. She is well into her 40s. 

She had an enormous desire to have another child and was able to harvest her eggs for an in vitro attempt. Her younger sister, who already has four children of her own and is also over 40, agreed to carry the potential baby. Against huge odds, they are midway through the pregnancy with high hopes for a healthy birth and baby. 

Resilience.

***

Monday night, Baylor beat Gonzaga to win the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. It was Coach Scott Drew’s 18th season at the school. He arrived in 2003 at the age of 32 after one year as head coach at Valparaiso.

Scott was attracted to Baylor because the basketball program was in shambles. One teammate had shot and killed another teammate, and the former coach had been caught giving under the table cash to team members. The NCAA took away most of the team’s scholarships. Scott took the job nobody wanted, perhaps because he felt there was no way things could get worse.

His first year, Scott held tryouts to find players. Most of the kids who tried out didn’t even go to the school. But Scott Drew was tenacious and Baylor received a bid to the NCAA tournament in 2006. 

The program got stronger and stronger, and it developed a reputation for being able to utilize the skills of different types of players. 

Last year’s team would have been a #1 seed if the tournament had not been canceled by COVID. This year, Baylor was ranked number two all year with Gonzaga undefeated and #1. The two teams had been scheduled to play one another in December, but COVID again had canceled that game. 

Monday night, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears absolutely slaughtered Gonzaga.

Resilience. 

Question: When has resilience come into play for you?

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Best of Swarfcast – John Habe IV on Valuing a Machining Business, Parts I & II

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is a “Best of Swarfcast” from Summer of 2019, a two-part interview we did with John Habe IV, President of Metal Seal Precision, a machining company based in Mentor, Ohio.

Over the last several years, John has grown Metal Seal Precision both organically and through major acquisitions. According to John, growing through acquisitions can be financially rewarding but does not come easily. John discussed the difficulty in buying companies, which often have emotionally attached owners. He also talked about how he calculates the buy price of a company. He looks at cashflow, often called EBITDA in the acquisitions business, as well as criteria such as product sector, customer diversity, and management style of the current ownership.

Listen to Part 2 on your favorite podcast players, or follow the links below to listen to both parts! listen with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or your favorite app.


 

 

CLICK HERE to listen to PART 1: Ep. 41 – John Habe IV on Growing a Machining Business through Acquisitions

CLICK HERE to listen to PART 2: Ep. 42 – John Habe IV on Valuing a Machining Business

Question: Is this a good time to go into the machining business? If so, what sector?

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Money Vs. Respect

By Lloyd Graff

If you’re looking for poverty and violent crime, Bessemer, in the great state of Alabama, is your town. It was also Amazon’s pick for a huge distribution facility with 6,000 workers, which opened exactly one year ago. Today the results might be in for a landmark union organizing effort and vote at the spanking new facility, built in the former coal mining, limestone, and steel-making town of 27,000, just outside of Birmingham. 

Is the Tide coming back for unionism in America, with President Biden rooting for the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union and Bernie Sanders making an appearance?

Or, is the second biggest US employer behind Walmart going to use its $15 per hour wages plus hiring bonus and health insurance to carry the day? It’s a fascinating contest because Amazon pays so well in a starving community, yet the union feels it has a good chance to organize the facility. 

Both sides have a lot invested and think the election will be tight. Why? What does it mean for the machining world?

Jeff Bezos hates unions when they threaten his company, though his newspaper, The Washington Post, has been friendly to organized labor, unless it pertains to Amazon. 

You don’t go to work at an Amazon distribution facility if you are looking for a picnic. The work is physically demanding, repetitive, and very tough on the hands and wrists. If you work on the line, you are likely to be exhausted after a 10-hour day. Many of the workers are not young and have never done hours and hours of handling boxes, day after day. It isn’t coal mining or steel making. The facility is air conditioned and well lit, but make no mistake, Amazon pushes its people very hard, hand and forearm injuries are common, and many people do not last.

A woman who did domestic work once a week in our home eagerly took a sorting job when Amazon opened one of several facilities in the south suburbs of Chicago. She hoped the hourly wage, health insurance, and opportunity to use one of its perks, paying for a community college course in surgical instrument sterilization, would raise her up in the world. She ended up with severe hand and wrist disabilities from continually handling boxes, a common malady.

It is hardly a secret that Amazon is hoping and planning for robots to do more and more of the demanding and difficult work in its spectacular facilities, but we’re not there yet, and Amazon needs a million humans to pack and drive everyday.

These days, unions are seldom interested in attempting to organize smaller machining companies. My observation is that workers in such firms are generally heartily anti-union. In the machining world today, there is a shortage of skilled people. Workers who show initiative have ample room for advancement in a highly competitive milieu for talent.

If Amazon loses the election today, it will be more about working conditions than money. One of the biggest gripes about working for Amazon is that employees don’t even have time to use the bathroom in private. Drivers routinely take plastic bags with them to relieve themselves. 

Amazon always wins these elections because money talks. Amazon has argued that the cash and perks are worth the sore wrists and urinating in plastic bags. It builds facilities where Google doesn’t recruit. If it loses in Bessemer, that does not necessarily mean the Tide has turned, even if Joe and Bernie will cheer the results.

It will just mean we will get robots and driverless vans a year or two earlier.

Question: Have you ever been in a union? What was it like?

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Ep. 116 – Mental Health in the Machining Business with Jackie, owner of PXR Machining

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the first episode of a new season about mental health. Our guest on the show is Jackie, owner of PXR Machining. Jackie spent the majority of her life trying to mask a significant part of herself from others and deny her own feelings about who she always knew she was. Through therapy she finally gained the courage to transition from a man to woman in her late 40s.

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

 

Main Points

Jackie talks about her CNC machining company, PXR. She started her first plastics machining company back in 1992. Over the years she has designed and machined a variety products in the plastics sector from tabletops, to signs, to gun smithing tools, one of her most steady products these days. Her shop features CNC routers and CNC mills such as the Fanuc Robodrill (pictured). (3:00) 

Jackie talks about a brutal motorcycle accident she had 15 years ago at age 35. She spent three years in a wheelchair, yet continued to run her business. Then a friend of hers was going to get married, and she decided she was not going to go to the wedding in a wheelchair. Her right leg was mostly paralyzed, so she needed an orthotic foot device in that shoe to keep her foot from flopping around. She fabricated one for herself in her shop in one day. (6:00)

Jackie talks about first realizing she was a female trapped in a male’s body at four years old. Her grandmother asked her what she wanted to be and she said she wanted to look pretty like mom. Jackie’s parents then had a serious talk with her to clarify that she was not a girl. (9:30)

Jackie said she first thought about undergoing a sex change when she was 17, while working at Radio Shack alongside a trans woman, but she was too scared to do it. Instead, she got married the next year, with the hope that if she built a family and a successful business she could bury her feelings of being a woman stuck in a man’s body. Sometimes that worked, but she says after the motorcycle accident the walls came down around her and it was very visible to her that she had “hid herself from reality.” (11:00)

Jackie, Owner of PXR Machining

But somehow Jackie then managed to bury her painful feelings once again. She had just gotten remarried a year before and was planning to have another child. She also wanted to get her shop going strong. Jackie says she wishes during those three years in a wheelchair she had gotten a therapist, but she had been turned off by the stigma of getting one and instead tried to “DIY” her mental health. She says she finds it interesting how most people will take care of their physical health when they get hurt, like getting a cast after breaking a leg, but when they get a mental injury they to try “walk it off.” (13:31)

Jackie talks about constantly trying to overcompensate for her knowledge that she was a woman on the inside. She owned a restored Dodge Charger that was a replica of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard. She owned 10 motorcycles and the biggest pickup truck you could buy. But later on, after she came out as transgender, friends told her they had sensed her secret for a long time—she could never actually have hid what was going on inside. (15:30)

In her latter 40s Jackie hit a wall. She says she had lost all the fire in her belly that tells a person to do things. Her shop was suffering, her home life was suffering, her mental health was suffering and she knew she needed help. She joined an online forum for trans-support and the members told her to get a therapist. (16:30)

Jackie says getting a therapist was the most important pivot point for making improvements in her life—it finally got her to start the transition process. (17:30)

Jackie talks about her current relationships with family members. She works alongside her father in her shop. She does not talk to her sister often. Her 30-year-old daughter is starting her own machine shop right now, and they share a bond with that. She has a teenage daughter who lives with her mother (Jackie’s ex-wife) who understandably has had difficulty with the transition. (18:30)

Jackie says the first step in a transition process is to get a therapist. Her therapist eventually told her to go to a medical doctor to start hormone replacement. She decided in therapy she was interested in getting a lot of surgical procedures to make her look more feminine. She says everyone has different preferences of what they want to get augmented or reconstructed. Jackie has had her breasts enlarged, facial reconstruction, vocal reconstruction, and “downstairs surgery.” I asked her if it was traumatic to look at herself after her organs were swapped out. She says she was finally able to look at herself in the mirror and say, “that’s actually me.” (21:30)

Jackie says the transition took her about three years and that hers was a relatively quick process. She says some people can do it faster, but other transitions can take over 15 years. She says she continually saw her therapist during the process, which she likens to going through puberty rapidly. She says getting rid of facial hair is one of the most difficult parts of the transition process. It can take years of electrolysis. Another change she has had to get used to is having less lean muscle mass because she has less testosterone. Now she can’t lift things around her shop like she used to. (23:30)

Jackie says despite transitioning to become a woman, she still is attracted to women rather than men. (29:30)

Jackie says she feels people have core personalities that are just us, but we all also have masks. She says she pulled her mask over herself so people would see only what she wanted them to see. But now that she has let the mask go she finally gets to see who she really is, along with everyone else. (30:15)

Jackie says her advice for people who need to alter their life or deal with things that require a lot of thought is to see a therapist—they should ignore the negative stigma and stop trying to DIY their mental health.

Question: What was one of the most difficult changes you had to make in your life?

 

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Supply Chain Guilt?

By Lloyd Graff

A question that has troubled me for many years is if I fit into the supply chain of destruction.

I struggled with this following the Purdue Pharma controversy over its magnificent painkiller for cancer patients and surgery survivors, OxyContin. I took this wonder drug in its time-released form after my knee replacement. It worked beautifully for controlling my hurt, although it had a side effect of constipation. I understood that it was not a drug I wanted to take for more than three days unless I was in total misery because of fear of becoming dependent. I stopped taking it after two days. 

Mail order outpatient pharmacy, North Charleston, SC

Purdue Pharma was bought by members of the Sackler family in 1952. The company had made earwax remover compounds and other home remedies. The Sackler brothers were doctors who eventually moved the company into pain alleviation medicines, which were morphine derivations and substitutes. The business grew rapidly and moved from New York City to Connecticut, finally culminating in the making of their blockbuster product, OxyContin. The Sackler descendants became one of America’s richest families–and most charitable.

They were fabulously successful in convincing doctors to prescribe it. Over time it became the drug of choice for aching backs and aching souls. People shopped for doctors who would prescribe it liberally. Eventually it reached the street peddlers. More and more people’s lives were ruined by addiction. Things only got worse after Purdue complimented OxyContin with Fentanyl, a powerful drug with dramatic pain-killing power and addictiveness.

The Sacklers just kept getting richer and richer, having an estimated net worth of $13 billion in 2013. They contributed to hospitals, and gave massively to colleges and art museums. But lots of people, often young people and veterans, got hooked, stole it, and committed suicide. Millions of lives were damaged, many ruined. Millions of people also took the drug successfully and benefited greatly.

Are the Sacklers awful people? Are they murderers because so many people abused the painkillers they manufactured? I don’t think they are. But they are a significant part of the supply chain of destruction. 

Nor do I think the people who make the firearm parts that are sold to sportsmen and hunters and law enforcement are bad folks, just because a tiny number of metal pieces they turn and mill go into weapons used for evil purposes.

I think about the pharmacists and doctors who helped fill the painkiller supply chain. Most of them were good people in the healing field. Yet a small number of the billions of pills they prescribed were used destructively. How do those druggists and MDs feel when a client or patient becomes a pusher or an addict? How often do they know when it happens? 

A 10-year-old CNC lathe I may have sold in 2018 to a job shop in Oregon might have made a part that ended up in a gangbanger’s weapon in Chicago. I’ll never know, nor will he or she. 

Life is never simple. Purity of heart is a myth. 

I can’t help but wonder if in some distant way I have contributed to America’s supply chain of gun violence. Do you?

Question: Do you feel any guilt about gun violence?

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Ep. 115 – Treasure Hunting, Swarf, and Sliders with Noah Graff

By Noah Graff

Back in February I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the MTD Podcast, an excellent podcast about machining in the UK. Hosts Joe Reynolds and Giovanni Albanese grilled me about a lot of our favorite topics featured on Swarfcast, like treasure hunting, reshoring, Trump, and Swiss CNCs, which my British counterparts often call “sliders.” 

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

 

Main Points

I explain the origin of “Pinkert” in “Graff-Pinkert,” our used machine tool company’s name. It comes from Aaron Pinkert, my grandfather Leonard Graff’s cousin and business partner. (2:10)

I explain to my hosts how I got into the machine tool business and journalism. Back in 2005, my dad, Lloyd, lured me to work at Today’s Machining World with the idea of making streaming videos to accompany the magazine’s print content. It was a good idea, but it was one or two years before Internet broadband was good enough for it to be practical. Meanwhile, I honed my writing and editing skills working on the print magazine. In 2011, when Today’s Machining World became an all online publication I joined Graff-Pinkert, becoming a machine tool dealer (AKA treasure hunter). We continued to develope todaysmachiningworld.com and created Swarfcast in 2018. (3:00)

I elaborate more on my chosen occupation title of “Treasure Hunter.” I explain that my job as a used machinery dealer consists of combing the earth for valuable assets. “Treasure hunting” seems more romantic than “buying and selling dirty, oily, old machine tools that people don’t want anymore.” Giving myself the title reframes the essence of the occupation, making it more fun and interesting. “Treasure hunting” also relates to the serendipity factor of my job. Often I go into a shop to look for one thing but find something entirely different that is more valuable than what I came for originally. (7:20)

We talk about the CNC Swiss market in the United States. I tell my hosts that if you can find a good used sliding headstock machine from the last 15 years you’ve found treasure. It’s the number one item Graff-Pinkert’s customers are asking for these days. (10:50)

Noah Graff, Host of Swarfcast

I explain that none of the experts we have interviewed on Swarfcast have given us an actual example of reshoring in the United States—only anecdotes of people quoting work and theories saying that the stars are aligned for work to come back to the US. I mention a podcast in which we interviewed Yossi Sheffi, a supply chain professor at MIT, who told me it is impossible for a lot of manufacturing work to leave China because companies there already have a vast ecosystem of intertwined suppliers and vendors. (12:00)

Joe Reynolds asks me how I think Joe Biden’s presidency will effect US manufacturing. He asks if I think he will be an advocate for manufacturing like Trump. I admit to my hosts that though I loath Trump, when he was elected, Graff-Pinkert’s business got an immediate boost. I explain that it’s pretty typical for American business owners to feel happy and confident when a Republican is elected President. I explain that Trump made manufacturers’ lives easier with his tax bill and relaxed environmental regulations. Many manufacturing company owners felt confident in his policies and energized because they felt they had a president on their side. (15:30)

We talk about why a lot of Graff-Pinkert’s customers, many in the Swiss machining business, had their best years ever in 2020. This was partly do to opportunities in the medical field relating to COVID-19. Though we also know of many thriving Swiss shops, making products unrelated to COVID-19 such as dental implants or components for eye surgery. (20:00)

We talk about social media’s significance in the manufacturing business. I tell my hosts about one of Graff-Pinkert’s clients who says they have gotten business from posting instagram blooper videos of parts they had to scrap. (24:20) 

I brag to Joe Reynolds that Today’s Machining World has been referring to its editorial content as “Swarf” since its inception in 2000, which was prior to the creation of MTD CNC’s YouTube channel “Swarf and Chips.” (30:20) 

Question: What events led to your current career?

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Are You Up For Some Basketball?

By Lloyd Graff

The Men’s NCAA basketball tournament begins this week, an extravaganza of hoopla, gambling, and basketball. 

There are 68 teams, but only a few have a real chance of winning it. The eventual winner will likely come from one of the four No. 1 seeded teams in their regions. I don’t bet on sports. Machine tools are my game, but I love basketball and I find the four highest ranked teams and their coaches especially provocative this year. 

The No. 1 seed overall in the tournament is Gonzaga. If you do not follow college basketball, you probably have never even heard of the small Jesuit college in Spokane, Washington, which is pronounced with a hard “a.” Basketball has put the Gonzaga Zags on the map, thanks to Coach Mark Few. He came to the school in 1999, and the team has made the NCAA tournament for 22 straight years. 

And never won it.

But this year many think it will be different. The team is talented and experienced, and there are no traditional powerhouses with elite first round NBA picks to challenge them. This year it is the Zags with the NBA-ready players. Sophomore center Drew Timme, senior forward Corey Kispert, and guard Jalen Suggs, who has three cousins who played in either the NFL or NBA. If he turns pro after this season, it’s quite likely he will be a top 5 NBA pick.

***

Baylor is second among the four No. 1 seeds, although many believe Illinois may be just behind Gonzaga. The Bulldogs from Waco, Texas, were never known for basketball until Scott Drew turned the program around. He inherited the worst scandal in college basketball history. In 2003, Carlton Dotson shot and killed his roommate, Patrick Dennehy. They were both forwards on the Baylor team.

The investigation into the case revealed rampant drug use and cash payments by coach Dave Bliss to members of the team. Baylor basketball received penalties extending 10 years out. 

Baylor looked for a new head coach, who was as clean as Tide and who was clueless enough or brave enough to step into an impossible situation. 

It turned out to be Scott Drew, who had replaced his father at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Drew was considered as pure as a college basketball coach could be and naive enough to take a job where failure was a given. 

Baylor stunk for several years, but Scott Drew showed he could coach rejects and eventually he recruited guys with talent. For the last several years, Baylor has won 20 games a season, and this year they were undefeated much of the season, finishing with only one loss. Their guard, Jared Butler, is a first-team All-American.

***

Gene Hackman in the movie, Hoosiers

Illinois is coached by Brad Underwood, the epitome of the hard boiled, vagabond coach who has bounced from Hardin-Simmons to Daytona Community College, to Stephen F Austin, to Oklahoma State, and, finally at age 57, to head coach of the Big Ten Tournament Champion, Illinois. Underwood looks a little like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers. 

He’s seen it all and understands the game. And he really can recruit. His brute of a center, Kofi Cockburn, 7ft tall, 285 muscular pounds, is a rebounding monster. Super sub guard Andre Corbelo is from Puerto Rico via Long Island. But the top player is All American guard, Ayo Dosunmu of Chicago. 

He is a potential top 5 NBA pick and is probably the best player to come from the Windy City since Derrick Rose. Ayo is a terrific all-around guard, but what I like most about him is that he loves to take the last shot in a close game and usually makes it.

***

The fourth best team in the NCAA tournament is Michigan. Their head coach is a 19-year NBA veteran, Juwan Howard, who played on the great Fab Five Wolverines team. Howard, from Chicago originally, is in his second year of college coaching. 

Many saw him as a celebrity hire, but they underestimated the man. Howard is another basketball zealot, up at 5:30 a.m. to start his day. While playing, he took less money in one of his contracts to play for Pat Riley in Miami because he wanted to play for a coach who would push him to become the best player he could be. 

Howard inherited a mediocre team, but he recruited a 7ft tall center with excellent footwork, Hunter Dickinson, from Arlington, Virginia, and a transfer grad student from Columbia University of all places, Mike Smith. Add in Germany’s Franz Wagner and some good role players and Howard’s team can beat anybody

***

Gonzaga has the hype and three future NBA players. It’s Mark Few’s best team. Baylor and Michigan are capable of getting to the final game. Personally I think this is Illinois’ year.

Questions: Do you usually root for the favorites or the underdogs?

Which teams are you picking in your Men’s NCAA Tournament bracket?

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Should I Be Less Patient?

By Noah Graff

Being a machinery dealer takes a lot of patience. I guess patience is key for selling most things, as well as pursuing a relationship or a career. The problem we all face is that other people just have different schedules and different priorities than we do. 

I tried to sell a CNC Swiss machine to a company in Europe over the last several weeks. The company acted like they really wanted it. They called me several mornings to discuss the deal. I could taste that deal. It was a medium sized deal—but a nice deal. My contact at the company said she thought they would make the final decision to purchase the machine on Monday (last Monday). They asked a lot of questions about shipping and importing equipment because they were inexperienced buying a machine from the United States. When Monday came they asked me to give them another day or two—“then they would have a decision and likely would buy the machine.” So I waited, trying not to seem overeager. Then I got no answer.

A few days later, they sent an email, turning down the machine, saying their country’s government would finance a machine for free if they bought a new one domestically. All of my patience and attentiveness to their concerns, along with a damn good machine, wasn’t enough to close the deal.

We all think the thing that we are trying to do, which is at the top of our minds and is our top priority, is the same thing that other people should have as their top priority. A deal for a machine I’m selling that is so important to me should be just as important to my customer, if not more! Of course, it often is not. I guess I’m self-absorbed. I’m impatient, and I like to think everyone wants to treat me as they would want to be treated.

phone in handOf course, I’m also guilty of having a different personal agenda than my customers. When a customer calls me while I’m doing my morning exercise routine I usually push the reject button. It is a sacred time for me. They will just have to wait a half hour for my reply. Also, if it’s late in the evening, I will do everything in my power not to check email unless I’m specifically expecting something time sensitive.

I’ve tried to learn to be patient in business. I read negotiating books that tell you to stay calm when pursuing a deal. They say to never be overeager because it makes you seem needy. I read a great negotiating book called Start with No, by Jim Camp. Camp says the way to stay unneedy is to remember that all you really need in this world is water, air, and your loved ones. He says that everything else is just stuff you want.

My dad owns Graff-Pinkert. He writes the checks. He pays closer attention to making the monthly nut and understandably doesn’t always have the same patience as I do. Sometimes he calls customers when I think it’s a bad idea. I tell him he is calling a customer just to satisfy his own emotional needs, and I implore him to lay off.

A few years ago, he told me to call an auctioneer in Sweden at 9:00 PM (Sweden time) to discuss a hot machine for sale. I protested that it was common courtesy to not call so late, so we should call him in the morning. But I finally did what he said. What do you know, the guy was grateful I called and very interested in what I had to say.

There have been many moments when I questioned my dad’s eagerness with a customer, but then he proved me wrong and demonstrated the power of persistence. Sometimes being aggressive wakes up a deal and gets it done because the customer was distracted by other things. Perhaps the customer was vacillating over details of the deal and just needed an extra push or an extra sweetener to make a final decision. 

I had another machinery deal yesterday that got away from me. I very well could have gotten that deal if I had just followed up with a prospect a day earlier.

It is so hard to know how aggressive to be when pursuing a deal. I try to remember to pause and ask myself why I am choosing to act in a certain way. Am I making a decision based on emotion or logic? If it’s based on logic, what if my logic is wrong?

Question: When has a salesperson’s persistence made the difference in getting your business?

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