Building a Business that you can sell

In this week’s Exit Your Way Live series, we had the honor of having Craig Pistulka. Craig is the Owner and President of Design Solutions and Integrations. His company has provided automation, electrical, and integration solutions for over 20 years to a diverse range of industries across the US.

In this week’s Exit Your Way Live series, we had the honor of having Craig Pistulka. Craig is the Owner and President of Design Solutions and Integrations. His company has provided automation, electrical, and integration solutions for over 20 years to a diverse range of industries across the US.

The conversation started with Damon giving Craig’s introduction as his family. After this, Craig gave a little background of his work and how he got into it. He said that in the late 90s is when Craig was getting into the automation side of stuff. Later he got into programming and also took some classes on C programming.

Craig said that he got into the field of programming because it intrigued him in school. Then Craig shared his story of when he started building a business. He said he was working with a guy but without any actual paperwork, just a handshake.

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This is why, the guy he was working with, one day sold the company without telling Craig. At this point, Craig saw his world crumbling down, but he immediately stood up and decided to do something on his own.

Later talking about building a business, Craig mentioned how his next partner at the DSI was actually stealing from the company. During this time, he was flying back from a project with his current partner Dick Bolger. When Craig told Dick about the partner that was stealing from him, he offered to be a partner, along with Ron, another one of Dick’s partners.

With this in 2006, Craig, Mike, Ron, and  Dick all became partners at the DSI. Continuing the talk on his business, Craig said that building a business requires effort but also a lot of luck along. Therefore, when expanding their business Craig and his partners took money out of their mortgages and collected enough money to get a loan from a local bank.

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After that, their business bloomed. They expanded from South Dakota to North Dakota and further.

By the end of the conversation, Craig said that till 2012 their company was only working in automation. However, in 2012, they were suggested to expand and that is when they started moving towards electrical as well.

Lastly, Craig concluded the timeline of his business. He said in 2016, they further expanded to Texas to make their business more diverse and have newer ways of revenue generation. With this, they increased their revenue and sales. Moreover, due to this expansion, 2019 was the best year for DSI.

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The conversation ended with Damon thanking Craig for joining the show.

Thanks to Craig for sharing his time and knowledge.  Watch the video below for the entire conversation!

The Business Round Table

Learn about the experiences and stories of other business owners to overcome difficulties, improve processes and make their business a dream come true.

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Craig Pistulka, Damon Pistulka


Damon Pistulka  00:03

All right, everyone. Thanks once again for joining us on Exit Your Way live. This is a really special episode for me. Actually, I’m kind of nervous for this. Just be right out there. Because I’m interviewing family. And I’ve looked like an idiot a lot around my family, but hopefully not today. So, with me today, I’ve got Craig Pistulka. Craig is the president and founder of DSI, design solutions and integration. And glad to have you here. Craig did the beer. All right. So this is interesting.

You’re in a you’re in a business this year, that there’s a lot of things that are happening in your industry you’re in and, and, and those kind of things which we’ll get to in a minute, but you know, some of the some of the things that I like to talk about with people on here, it’s just kind of how you how you started out in the industry you’re in and starting out in the early days, you know, because it’s always good to, to do that. Well, yeah,



it was a,


Craig Pistulka  01:14

I suppose go back to way to the beginning. I was I learned early on, you know, in probably in the in the late 90s there 99 roughly I was I was getting into the the automation side of stuff and that’s kind of what I went to school for a little bit but I’m really more self taught to do the programming and stuff but um, so I I got some experience at away drying plant the doing some programming on on the DOS side of things.

And, and learned a lot about the electronics. And so I was able to start out in the DOS error and shift from dos. I mean, yeah, I’m so we’re talking it’s funny to see these kids today and how they, they they fly through this the programming and everything’s, you know, window base, or modules or whatever. And you know, some of them are still are actually pretty good at scripting.

But But anyway, back to the beginning. You know, I was I started programming in a DOS software and in I remember taking, I went back for some night classes for C programming, which helped me out tremendously on the scripting side, but I haven’t done any programming probably now for the last, I suppose 10 years now.

But in the beginning, it was just me and I don’t know, I when I was in school, I never thought I’d be where I’m at today. Definitely not. But it it was so intriguing to see this. In school, I actually had a little handheld deal, you know, programming contacts and I mean, it was just it was so basic, but it was so cool. Because you had this little box and you put you put some information in and it would, you know with inputs and outputs, it would control things so yeah, it just intrigued me So anyway,


Damon Pistulka  03:30

so I don’t know if you remember that I remember when you work in that waiter I’m playing we went out there one night and you are showing us something you’re programming where they loaded the trucks in this brand new PLC thing that control the truck loading or some darn thing like that. And I remember that when you were starting out how excited you were because you really liked that stuff.


Craig Pistulka  03:50

Oh yeah, it was so intriguing and and I remember doing that they did a bill lading and everything so it actually when they were done loading loading the truck itself of course it did it all automatically. And Firstly, I would see IP the truck and then you know, I mean so there’s and then it would load the truck. And then when it was done, it was ran through a an actual certified meter. And then it would actually kick it back out and do a bill lading out to an Excel spreadsheet then it would print out on a dot matrix printer, you know. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I mean, it just gives me shivers just thinking about it because I there’s nothing better than to go in and create something like that.

Boom. You know, it works and you know, so yeah, that was that was cool stuff. You know, but in in so in that way drying plant plus I did a lot of work for Lana lakes too. But in in right at 2000 there you know, after I went to that way drain plan, I worked there for two years and then I worked for another smaller integrator. firm for a couple of years, and there was a gentleman that was working in there with me. And he, he wanted to go out on his own. And I said, Well, you know, he asked me if I wanted to be a partner with him.

And they said, Sure. And, I mean, I didn’t know anything about business, you know, I mean, a handshake meant a contract, you know, but so, um, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there has been through this story, but so we, he started out and I stayed at that place, we’re working, but I worked at nights with him. And I started doing all of his bidding for him. And I was landing some jobs and stuff. And so then I I moved over, there was literally within a few months, I moved over there and started working there. And pretty soon we hired another programmer. And we went about a year. And I finally got up the guts to start building the house.





Damon Pistulka  06:08

so you’re, you’re working on your own this first time out on your own, you’re about a year and you’re like, Okay, now it’s gone. Good enough. I’m gonna build a house.


Craig Pistulka  06:17

Yeah. Yeah. And mind you, I didn’t have any paperwork signed with this guy, you know, so it was all on a handshake. And I, I assumed I had 40% of the company, and he had 60% of the company. And, you know, I was like, okay, whatever, you know, I was, I was just hungry. You know, I just, this was loving it. So yeah. And, lo and behold on like I said, it lasted about a year like this.

And then on a Friday, I come pulling into the, into the yard, where we were building the house, in preparing for my weekend of, you know, 14 hour day 1516, whatever it is to work on the house and be dead to go to work on Monday morning, but and I started, I think it was windows or siding or something and all sudden I get this phone call from this guy. And and he tells me starts talking a little bit.

He says, Well, next Friday, you’re out of a job. I said, What? Next Friday, you’re on a job. He said, I sold the business to to a local, local person. And I I mean, I still remember it to this day, I was just flabbergasted. And I said, well, am I supposed to go work for him? Or what are you know, I mean, you know, just felt like the world was crumbling around you. And he said, Do you can go interview for a job saw.

And I hung up the phone and I told my wife at that time. And you know, and I, I just dove into the house and worked all weekend. And I went and talked to this other company. And he was he cut my salary by a third. Because I worked on a salary plus commission. Yeah, and a third less pay. And I told him all the stuff I was doing, I was bidding the jobs and I’m doing all this work and and he goes, I can’t pay my text anymore. net. And that’s all it is. I stood up, shook his hand, walked out the door. He goes, you can start on Monday said No, thank you. And I just walked out. I just you know, I wasn’t smartass about it or anything. I just walked out.


Damon Pistulka  08:32

Yeah. So let’s just stop there. You’re building a house, and you hear down with this guy all of a sudden, and then you’re in there. And they thought there’s something going to happen. And you were going to do we’re going to get you cheat on the cheap or something. And you said no, I’m going to walk. I’ll figure out something else. Yep, yep. And mind you.


Craig Pistulka  08:51

I didn’t mean they have any paychecks coming in are in Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But that was Friday, he told me that. And then the Monday I went in and talked to him about it. So in I walked out, and I picked up the phone and called my wife at this time, and I told her what happened. And I says, I know I can make, you know, I know I can make as much as they’re offering me at that place. I know I can make that up. Yeah. And that was pretty close to right around the end of 2000 I think it was roughly in there and and I picked up I I made it back to the to while we were living in a trailer.

I was involved at that time and I made it back there and I picked up the phone and I started making phone calls to my existing to existing customers. Yeah. And I talk to the guys in Sydney, Nebraska. And I talked him into letting me bid that project donor because they knew me. And I bet it, I got it. I didn’t have I didn’t have a bank account I didn’t have. I didn’t have anything, man. I mean, I had a credit card. That was it. And I landed an eight, I remembered right around $89,000 job.

And I thought, how am I going to do this? And I went and told the city exactly, you know, my financial situation, I says, I can do this job. I know I can. But I don’t have any cash to do it. Um, and, you know, they work with me, you know? Yeah, by the grace of God, they work with me. And I made it through that project. And I want you to know that there’s still a customer today, because we are literally taking out the equipment I stole installed 20 years ago. And we’re putting new stuff in right now. And in fact, I just seen it in the shop.


Damon Pistulka  11:09

So Oh, that.


Craig Pistulka  11:12

That. That is that is really, really cool. And I think that says a lot about our company, too, you know, so,


Damon Pistulka  11:18

yeah, well, I think one of the things that they and this is, this is awesome, because one of the reasons why I wanted you and I’m getting other business owners on here is because a lot of people just like a sports and a people, they see successful people and they go, Oh, man, if this be you, but what they don’t understand is the deep, the deep digging in, like, you’re just talking about that first man, you’re hanging in the wind there, you’re, you know, in the heart, and, and you know, you got the first thing worked really hard at it, and then you moved on.

And that’s, that’s what I want people to understand from these kind of things is that it’s a grind. It’s not it doesn’t. It’s not that you don’t love it. And that it’s not that it’s that it’s not great, but it’s hard.


Craig Pistulka  12:10

Oh, yes, it is. It is in it is very hard. And it is it is definitely not a nine to 5858 for whatever job. I mean. You know, you you live if, and I shouldn’t say this, it’s not every business is probably this way. I just know. I’m just gonna say for this business anyway. I mean, it was you know, I quit hunting. I didn’t. Yeah, I didn’t go play darts. I didn’t go bowling. I didn’t do anything. Yeah, I have my two daughters. And when I was working at worked in any spare time ahead was with family. Yeah.





Damon Pistulka  12:58

go ahead. No, but you are supporting facilities that were 24 seven. Now. That’s one of the other things that’s unique about your business when you support facilities that never shut down. And you are the business in the beginning as you were there, there isn’t much reprieve.


Craig Pistulka  13:13

There was many times I can remember walking into our parents house, you know, and for Christmas or something, you know, or or even my own house and then all the sudden the phone rings and you got to go there. You don’t have anything, you know, it’s either you go do it or they’re gonna find somebody else to do.


Damon Pistulka  13:31

Yeah. Yeah,


Craig Pistulka  13:34

yeah, technology today. You know, with the internet and everything, it’s it’s definitely a lot easier because you can troubleshoot a lot of stuff from remotely, but we still have guys on site, you know, so, yeah, back then it was, well, it was me and, you know, I mean, you didn’t anybody else return to this. So, yeah.


Damon Pistulka  13:56

So you started hiring people and things started to take off. So


Craig Pistulka  14:06

Brian Evans, who’s been with with me the longest Anyway, it was shortly after I got that Sydney job.


Damon Pistulka  14:18



Craig Pistulka  14:20

So he worked for Ecolab engineering. And he went around and did cipc systems all around the United States. And so he went around programming them in starting them up and in. I mean, he went all over the damn place. But anyway, he had a couple weeks vacation in 2001 there you know that summer sometime in there when we started that project. I don’t think it really kicked off till right that fall. But anyway, he came down there for a couple weeks and helped me out Put that whole system in because I think they if I remember, right, there’s like 30 some wells down there or something like that. And with towers and water towers and everything and back to their back there,


Damon Pistulka  15:13

just so people know you, you what you do at that what you were doing at that time is you are re, you set up all the control systems and the electrical panels and stuff not in the the control systems to run our world water system for the city. Correct.


Craig Pistulka  15:29

So if you can envision this, you have like for this, these guys did not have a water treatment plant their water was good enough. So they could actually pump it and chemically treat it and then put it into the towers, you know? Yeah. So, but basically, you have, but there’s, there’s, there’s like, you know, they still have their turbidity meters and their pH meters and there’s certain wells and there’s certain wells, they want to flow so much, because they and then they had a what they call a mixing station that it goes through. So it mixes and it meets the EPA regulations that way. But then it goes out to the towers.

So then Yep, you’re communicating. At that time, it was 900 megahertz wireless radios spread spectrum. And it was, you know, it was a slower baud rate back then. But I think now they’re putting like, 2.4 gig or whatever, five, you know, anyway, um, but yeah, so we set up all the towers, we put the mask up, we put the antennas up. We retrofitted the existing panels and put the new little new PLCs in there. And yeah, it did all the programming started up and then but you have to do it in a way. Of course, you need to keep the water gone, you know, so it’s time consuming. So you can’t shut down and stuff down for very long at all. But yeah, so yeah, it is definitely time consuming.

And but it was a good project. Yeah. But So Brian was down there. And, and we, I kept talking to him, and they said, Man, you need to come work with me, man, you need to come work with me. Never been on the phone with his dad. And he goes, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I said, You know, I really respect your dad, but I think he’s wrong. And Brian had, at that time, he had three, three or three kids. I think it was Yeah, three or four. I don’t remember. So anyway, he came to work. You know, it was shortly after that probably about six months after that, you know, he came to work. It was in 2002, roughly. And he’s been with us ever since? Of course. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  17:56

Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool. So Brian was your first employee? And then and then you guys started you were doing water systems and other municipal or industrial kind of automation and that kind of stuff. And then you started wastewater treatment system or wastewater treatment? municipal wastewater treatment, automation projects?



Yep. Yeah.


Craig Pistulka  18:20

And it was, you know, since being in a rural community, we had to travel ways, but you know, it, we started out course, local, and there was quite a bit of work for us locally, but we did water wastewater treatment plants. And then, you know, we got into green facilities. Yep. Because there’s controls everywhere, and especially like in the ethanol plants. When Brian first started coming out, we we did a lot of programming for Brian on the DCS systems.

Yeah. And, you know, so and then they would tie the DCS systems to a lot of Rockwell PLCs. So, I mean, we we got involved in a lot of that stuff, too. So over the years, but yeah, so I mean, there’s been in the Midwest, you got involved in a lot of different a lot of different industries. So yeah.


Damon Pistulka  19:13

Well, and then you and then you brought you had some other partners, how did that how did the whole transition into into the partners that was was a little different thing, because this is this is like, this is like when you’re sitting down at a table and, and you’re, I don’t know, you’re playing basketball, and Michael Jordan steps up and hey, we want to play a game. Yeah,


Craig Pistulka  19:37

yeah, it was like that. So, so, and about 2003. Because Mind you, I didn’t know anything about business, you know, but we were making evidence and I were, and I didn’t know anything about business. So about six months, you know, Evans came in there and roughly in 2000 2000 sometime in there. In 2003, yep, I got hooked up with another guy, and out of Fargo and I didn’t learn my lesson.

The only lesson I learned is I signed some paperwork saying I owned a certain amount of money for a certain amount knocking the company. So I, I learned that much. But what I didn’t learn is is you need to be open book with everybody. Because if you can’t see cash coming in and out, it’s pretty easy to steal money if you’re if you’re the only person.


Damon Pistulka  20:31



Craig Pistulka  20:32

yeah. works. So this gentleman happened to be out of North Dakota and we’ll fast forward to 2006 when he caught him, I kind of knew he was but then I kind of got to the point where another gentleman Mike Walker, it was my partner today. And I were working together and Mike joined the company in 2003. The gentleman that is no longer a partner actually introduced me to Mike.

So it’s funny. Funny how the good Lord works, you know? Yep. And that’s another thing too. I give all the credit to the good Lord, because I guarantee you this this dumb little farm boy right here could have never done it on his own. I mean, I put a lot of work in in in blood, sweat tears, but he presents us with the app to us. Yeah. But anyway, um,





Craig Pistulka  21:37

by getting this other partner in North Dakota, it allowed me to meet Mike waubra. And


Damon Pistulka  21:47

that led


Craig Pistulka  21:48

to different work at lamb Weston in a french fry factory in Park Rapids, Minnesota, where I met Nick burger. So in 2006, I found out you know, that the beginning of 2006 found out Jeff was stealing a lot of money out of that company. And we were doing a project on Boardman, Oregon for for a gentleman by the name of runoff. And who worked for runoff. It was over. Yeah. We were doing a project out in Boardman Oregon. We’re flying back dig Bogart and I were and he got me bumped up the first class. And I’m sitting alongside of him. And it was like, almost seven o’clock in the morning.

And I think we flew out of Spokane. And I said, Man, I wish I had some coffee creamer. He goes, I got something better. And he brings out the little bottle of Bailey’s. You know, he’s my customer. So we had, you know, I don’t know, we went from Spokane to Minneapolis. And you know, so two and a half hour flight, whatever it is. We had a few a few of them. And we’re getting a giggle and laugh and and I told him what was going on with the existing partner. They said I would you like to be a partner in DSI.


Damon Pistulka  23:23

So you asked. Yep.


Craig Pistulka  23:25

Yep. Yep. Oh, be a partner DSI.



And he looked at me.


Craig Pistulka  23:33

And he said, Could Ron be partner too? Nice. I’m open for anything I’m here to talk about. He goes, let me talk to Ron. So it wasn’t, you know, a week later and he called me up and said, we’ll do it. He said we’ll each do So Mike Walker myself and run off and Dick Bogart we all threw $75,000 into the pot, which I had to take a second mortgage out of my house. And, um, and we all threw it in the pot in 2006. And we all became partners and


Damon Pistulka  24:13

yeah, so So now for people that don’t understand North Dakota and Ron Offutt  equipment, people in the West and a lot of that across the United States still understand Ron owns while his corporations on more John Deere dealerships than than anyone in the world. He’s got more potato processing plants. I believe in the United State, no. He grows more potato acres than anyone in the United States. And in North Dakota, Ron is is is they know it is No. Yeah,


Craig Pistulka  24:51

you can search or do or Ron Offutt. Yeah, yeah. Here’s


Damon Pistulka  24:57

the thing about this. Arliss, this little company. And now you have this this, this huge presence. Yeah,


Craig Pistulka  25:08

that changed things. You know, um, it really, as far as like DSI, that company itself. It’s not like it brought us a bunch of work or anything. Yeah,


Damon Pistulka  25:19



Craig Pistulka  25:21

What it did is is it allowed us to go to a bank that Ron banked at. And even though Ron, we are all, you know, on the hook for 25%, or whatever we Yeah, yeah. This guy said to us, he goes, a banker says, Well, I’ve known Ron for, you know, worked them for about 12 years know, roughly anything that guy touches turns to gold. So, so because we went to US Bank did try to get a business loan. And they and we showed him our business plan. They said, never happened.

Okay, so we went to a local bank in West Fargo, and which was the bank that Robert bank he used did some of his banking there anyway, they knew runs. And that allowed us to get them, you know, that. That operating note? We still had to $300,000. So we took that $300,000 we did an asset purchase from the actually myself. Yeah, you’ll the old partner. And we’ll just move the assets over here. Yeah, we didn’t even have to change company name or anything and limited the cricket partner. And then we’re off.


Damon Pistulka  26:41

Yeah. Yeah. So that that had to be exciting when you’re able to do that. And then, so we’re talking this is 2006. And it wasn’t much longer after that. When, when you’re you looked around and you said, I, North Dakota has got more work then then water treatment plants and, and rural water systems. Yeah. And,


Craig Pistulka  27:05

you know, I mean, we were always looking for work. I mean, just to keep busy and in, you know, 2006 and, and seven, you know, so we were doing work around North Dakota and South Dakota and Iowa, Nebraska, a little bit over in Wyoming, some in Montana. And then 2008 and nine yet, Oh, my God.


Damon Pistulka  27:34



Craig Pistulka  27:37

I want you to know that in 2006, the first time that we Deke Bogart came in, and he set up our accounting system. And that was the first time that I really understood what a p&l and a balance sheet was, you know, SAP, and the true cost of doing business. Without that, I don’t know how any company can make it, I mean, a small bag, whatever. Without that, you if you don’t know where you’re going, or where you’re coming from, or, you know, you, I mean, it’s just like, it’s like, driving blind in any way. I can’t stress that enough.


Damon Pistulka  28:11

But anyway,


Craig Pistulka  28:13

2008, nine, you know, when the recession was there, we were we literally were hanging on by the skin of our teeth. And we had a line of credit, but you know, $100,000 and we max it out, we were like at 840. The bank, let us go up to of course, I had the second mortgage on the house. And I think Mike did too, you know, and so we we had we built up enough assets that we could get a asset loan on for 400,000.

In the bank said, Okay, we’ll do it and I got to give them guys credit up there. Todd Zabel is the bank president up there, and I can’t thank that guy enough for working with us. I mean, it’s, um, he just seen something in us and but you know, he had collateral too but he had he just seen something, I guess in us and, and we in with that we prayed a lot. And Deke says to me one day, he says,


Damon Pistulka  29:27



Craig Pistulka  29:27

I’m hearing some noise about North Dakota in oil. He said, You need to go up there. And I, I got scared. First time I really got scared. I was like, I don’t know anything about oil. You know, like, oil, explosions. You know, I don’t know anything about it. But um, it got to the point where it was either that or nothing. I mean, yeah, close the doors. And so I packed my bags and went up to my North Dakota and they start knocking on doors. I just got a list of oil companies were up there and lo and behold, there was this little little hole in the wall office. And it was a company that used to be Standard Oil but Hess bought about.





Craig Pistulka  30:24

I walked in there and and I put the best sale on I could and this James Webb Coleman was the guy Remember him? He says, Can you really do all that stuff? I said, Yes, we can. And so I started out what I do, I went out in trouble troubleshot some fiber optic lines with them. And I was out there with a house engineer and and I figured out the problem and in lo and behold, today their biggest customer still. Yeah, you know, we build the we build the SP trailers for him today, we build.

We do tons of electrical work form automation, we do a lot of maintenance work for them. But so I started out doing that. And then all sudden, we started doing a lot of programming. And then we actually come in and they got rid of their automation company that was there. And DSI moved in. And we started doing all their cause and effects and in doing all their programming, and we built all their programs for their wells they’re currently using the day. And has was such a great company. And they are a great company to work with. I mean, it was their blessing to be able to work with such a good company in an ethical company.


Damon Pistulka  31:53



Craig Pistulka  31:55

So in 2012, mind you, we didn’t do electrical, we were just automation in a panel shop. Yeah. And in 2012, they asked us Can you guys do electrical? Yeah, you know, I told him exactly and never lied to him said, Hey, do it. But here’s what we can do. But but but okay. So we went to the city of Stanley, North Dakota talk to them, they let us rent some land that we put a small little building on, which we ended up buying from them, and started our electrical company.

And I told Holdaway partners, I said, if I can get my, my old instructor from school, Tony Russell, he’s got a master license, I said, that guy is so smart. I said, if we can get him up there, I said, I guarantee you that that’s going to work. And at 2010 for some reason I was kept, I always kept in touch, I was on the on the board for that school, and help them try to build up that automation class.

But I always kept in touch with Tony and I said someday you’re going to come work with us someday you’re going to come work with us. And in 2012, I called him and he’s his wife said we can move and he picked up he sold everything in South Dakota moved to North Dakota, and has been running awesome since you know so. So, in 2012, we started that. And of course, when oil went up to 100 bucks a barrel. I mean, it was just unreal, the amount of work that we did.





Damon Pistulka  33:47

when they were drill, and they had 200 rigs up there the install in the box and at one time or close to it. Yeah. You know, it was not it was no,


Craig Pistulka  33:56

it was nuts. And we were up to I don’t know, 110 probably people up there. And we we other customers come to us and wanted us to do work, but we would literally fail. It actually gave us a bad name in some people’s eyes. Because we were growing so fast that we couldn’t handle it.


Damon Pistulka  34:21



Craig Pistulka  34:22

So you can grow too fast.


Damon Pistulka  34:25

Yeah. Yeah, you got to get organized to be able to grow. Yeah,


Craig Pistulka  34:29

yeah. So and then 2016 hit. So at that time we were DSI was in Sioux Falls. We still were doing water wastewater, doing all the agricultural stuff. We had the shop in Grand Forks. And then we had the shop out in Stanley, North Dakota. And then the oil started going the other way and then it went down. 26 bucks a barrel. Well, you know, our revenue dropped in half. Yeah, but we’ve always been a very thrifty. You know, we don’t have a Taj Mahal we got very, I mean, we’re, we’re debt free company and we’ve always saved for the rainy days, if you will.

But in 2016, you know, I in in 14, when things were booming, I kept telling the guys I said, Hey, we should go look in Texas and they look at us look at me like, we can’t handle the work here. That’s actually what they said. And I said, but someday it’s gonna, it’s gonna dry up it will, it will, we needed to we need to get more diverse, different customers and spread this out we can’t rely on basically why customers pay you.

Because we literally 95% of our revenue was from one customer. Yeah. Um, so in 2016 when things were slower I packed my bags and and went down to middlin. And I looked around a little bit. And but earlier in the year, I got a booth at the oil and gas show in Odessa, Texas. It’s an international oil show happens twice or once every other year. And I knew nothing about it. But everybody said, Oh, you’ll never get a booth while I got a booth because somebody backed out. You got a booth. And I think


Damon Pistulka  36:33



Craig Pistulka  36:34

So October 2016. I go down there. In 38. Over 30,000 people came through that door for that show the first day. I couldn’t believe it. Yeah. In the people I talked to in the amount of work. I was like, wow. Um, I walked over to the, to the one of the distributors down there that sells Rockwell. And I shook their hand and I said, we’re coming to Texas. The guy says, Call me when you get brick and mortar down here. Okay. So packed bags after the show, went back up, got back down there. I was back down there in November, December, February 14. I moved in the house down there in Midland, Texas.

I had we two days after that. We bought our shop. walked up into the Reynolds said are you doing Do you remember me? No. Yep. Okay. I remember you. Were here. You got brick and mortar. Yep. There. They have been an ally of ours, just they accepted us with open arms down there, because there’s not a lot of automation companies down there. So we were panel shop down there too. And I’m literally we doubled, not doubled. The first like 2017 was slow. But then 18 Yeah. And it just took off for us. And a third more revenue we brought in


Damon Pistulka  38:13

Yeah, there.


Craig Pistulka  38:15

Um, and then 2019 was our best year ever for DSI in with a diversity that we did with all the different customers because now today we have at the same time shortly after I we, we opened that branch and middlin we went over to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and we got a basically a lay down yard. It’s small over there. But that way we could cover the Permian in Delaware, too. But today we have six locations.

We got Douglas, Wyoming, Stanley, North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Midland, Texas, in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Yeah. So we can and we’ve done work all over the United States. I it is it has been such a ride. And I’m very, very proud to say that in September 23 of this year through all the COVID and the oil prices being down, we’ve still been profitable, but we were able to become 100%.

Aesop’s. Yeah, we have such good employees that I can’t thank the Lord enough for all these good employees and what they’ve done for us. I’m telling everybody, man, the more you invest in your employees, yeah. The The bigger the better. The better your company is going to run, the more attitude or the better attitude they’re going to have. I mean, invest in your employees. Yeah. In last year, You know, I? Last year our gross revenue hit a little over 43 million.

Yeah. And I just it just, it’s been an amazing ride. I look forward to the future. Of course this year we’re down. Yeah. But but we’re still profitable. And that’s, that’s what I tell everybody is that we, we, we tightened our hatches down and we, in our in just to let everybody know we we didn’t lay people off but we had people quit in our especially on the electrical side. And even some of the automation side these guys travel right. We’re traveling companies. Yeah. And we had to clamp everybody down to 40 hours. In some of these guys were pushing brooms and they travel. Right.

Yeah. And if they’re not working seven days a week, they’re gonna leave. And yeah, we had, we actually had quite a few people leave, we had about 30 people leave, you know. But, um, so at the same time, though, anybody that did want to stay we, you know, yeah, we we invest in training. And I mean, so it’s not just you’re not just standing around, we, we, we got we fiber optics down there in Texas. Now we built this nice trailer for. So we can do climate controlled, fusion splicing. And then we were sent, we brought in a guy that he actually trained six of our employees,


Damon Pistulka  41:35



Craig Pistulka  41:37

ignition, which is another each of my software, we have two, two of our programmers now that are gold ignition programmers, and they’re actually


Damon Pistulka  41:46

invested in your people and yet, it go better, farther, faster next time when it comes back.


Craig Pistulka  41:53

Exactly, exactly. So we’re invested in in training and stuff. And you would think, you know, and then also too, we invested in marketing, we hired a couple more sales people and yeah, so we’re beating the streets, and we’re saying, Hey, we’re still here. We’re still here. We’re still here. We’re still here, you know, and, and we would get a little bit of work trickling, trickling in trickling in. So it, it’s all paid off. Really? Yeah. You know, but so, yeah, it’s, it’s in a nutshell, that’s, that’s the last 20 years in my life. And


Damon Pistulka  42:28

yeah, well, let’s, let’s talk a little, you know, so the business is awesome, dude, I just, you know, it’s such a cool ride. And, you know, I see those times, and I know that if someone listens to this and goes through it, they’re gonna understand, you know, if you look at today, it’s, it’s a sizable business, you know, but they wonder, and the struggle and the and the heartache and the challenges and the things that you overcome to get there. But it’s, it’s, it’s cool to hear that from you.

And, and, and stuff. So. A couple other things, though, I do have to ask now, you know, in I’d mentioned this at the beginning, but you’re my brother, I think, you know, without a doubt, you own the record in our family of four brothers or four boys for the most amount of speeding tickets. I don’t know that. But I would, I would guess, because you have a lawyer on staff. Don’t you almost


Craig Pistulka  43:35

put it to you this way. It’s a good thing. I didn’t get all tickets in South Dakota because I probably wouldn’t have a license and Okay.


Damon Pistulka  43:44

Okay. That’s, that’s one of the things cuz because you, you, you hold a couple records in our household and I think one is speeding tickets that are without a doubt. And I think you’re still building that record and leaving everybody else in the dust. Yeah, but


Craig Pistulka  44:00

it’s been six months, probably since.


Damon Pistulka  44:03

Okay. Yeah. Okay. Well, it’s six months. That’s that’s that. Is that. Is that a good? That’s a good thing then. Yeah. Yeah. It


Craig Pistulka  44:14

is pretty good. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  44:15

Okay. Okay. Good. And then the other record you hold is you’re in the hospital more than anyone our whole family and a life and I and your I believe we’re the only one that was air flighted where you verified it, or was it? No. It’s just an animal. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s the other record you hold nerfing me But no, it’s, it’s, uh,


Craig Pistulka  44:40

I do have another dirt bike, by the way. So yeah, I


Damon Pistulka  44:42

know. I saw that. I saw that. You have another dirt bike? Yeah. Well, hopefully ages helped.


Craig Pistulka  44:49

It is. It’s amazing when you jump on. It’s it’s only a 250 and it’s a two stroke. KTM but yeah. It’s amazing how smart you get when you get older.



Yeah. Not the same fear. I’m


Craig Pistulka  45:06

just gonna say you. Yeah, maybe there’s a little fear. But yeah, yeah,


Damon Pistulka  45:09

yeah. Yeah. Well, and then there’s there’s there’s another important thing that happened to you earlier this year is is you became grandfather.


Craig Pistulka  45:19

Yes, I did. Yes, I did. It is she is the is so it’s just unreal. It’s just unreal dad, that grandchild. The two daughters and, and the ones married and, and they just had their first child. And yeah, it is she is going to be four months here at the end of this month, four months old. And I got to watch her and the other night All night long. And she’s a very happy baby. I will tell you this that I did not sleep much because I was Yeah. I was worried. You know.



Your grandma.


Craig Pistulka  45:57

Yeah. So yeah. Yeah, she is. She’s adorable. And going to see her next week again. So I’m excited for that. So yeah.


Damon Pistulka  46:05

Well, I’m Craig, I, hey, it’s fun having you stop by and talk about your business. Now I know that people are listening, really appreciate that hearing from somebody that, you know, built it from the ground up. And that’s really what I was hoping because like I said, at the beginning, a lot of people see the businesses at the end, but they don’t understand what it took to get there.


Craig Pistulka  46:25

Yeah. And it’s, it’s definitely was worth it. You know, but I think the Lord every day or night, I’m always thanking him for for the opportunity and the, the strength to keep going. Yeah, but yeah,


Damon Pistulka  46:41

that’s what it is. A lot of times it’s just get back up.


Craig Pistulka  46:45

It is it is you gotta you’re gonna get punched in the gut so many times. And if you keep getting back up and and try to make the right smart decision. Hopefully you do. And, yeah, you know, and I pray about it a lot and try to make the right decision. And, you know, so yeah, Knock Knock on wood. It’s, it’s been working. So yeah. Hopefully we can in another 10 years do the same thing. I don’t know. We’ll see. So


Damon Pistulka  47:10

yeah, I think you will, I think you will. Oh, well. Thanks for being here today. Craig, thanks for being with us. on LinkedIn, live there, and I’m going to shut her down for now.



All right. Thanks.

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