manufacturers, antennas, e commerce, manufacturing, customers, ecommerce, big, fray, working, STI-CO, john, products, kyle, ryan, commerce, lance, b2b, business, nicole, mep
Ryan Case, Jon Guess, Lance Owide, Kyle Swiat, Nicole Donnelly, Curt Anderson
Curt Anderson 00:00
Go. Hey, Nicole, I think we’re live. How are you?
Nicole Donnelly 00:05
I am so excited to be here. It’s not very often that we get to have a woman leader in manufacturing on the show. And I’m super excited that we get to talk to Kyle and learn all about the just wonderful work. She’s doing just incredibly forward thinking with STI-CO and the E commerce project. So I’m excited. This is gonna be fun.
Curt Anderson 00:26
Absolutely. So this is good. So Happy Friday to everybody. And so first off our co host, who’s usually with us is that is traveling, going all over, up and down the West Coast today. So Damon, hello, we miss you. And you’re missing a great episode today.
But anybody out there, drop a note in the comments. Let us know that you’re out there. You want to connect with these amazing, incredible wonderful guests that we have today. So our featured guests. I’m going to start we’re up. We’re in Buffalo, New York. Where was STI-CO? And we have a great, great guest here with President Kayo Swiat Kyle, happy Friday. How are you?
Kyle Swiat 00:59
I’m great. How are you? I’m so glad to be here. Oh, I appreciate you having me in everything you do.
Curt Anderson 01:05
Absolutely. So this in so Nicole. This was a Gary’s right down the road. He’s in Rochester. So hey, Gary is here today Gary, Happy Friday to you we’ve got vails in the house. So guys drop us a note let us know that you’re out there and boy you want to dig deep we’re gonna go into a really fun manufacturing ecommerce success case study now speaking of case I’m gonna reduce you to my dear friend my good buddy Ryan cases handsome devil right over here. So Ryan, happy Friday. How are you?
Ryan Case 01:32
Good. You know, you didn’t go with Justin case. Easy one. So,
Curt Anderson 01:36
nine. So I just had to go with the case study. So we have a perfect case study. So we’re going to be talking about the manufacturing extension partnerships today. So if you’re like what on earth is that we’re gonna be talking about might be referring to it as MEP moving forward from here. But hey, guess who’s next? No call. Best? Hey, how about the best hair and ecommerce? How about John guests? So John, happy Friday, my friend from above the fray. How are you?
Jon Guess 02:03
Excited to be here? I can’t wait to learn more about the story on STI-CO. And thanks for having me.
Curt Anderson 02:11
Appreciate it. I’d say this is just what a privilege working with you and you’ve had a front row seat. You’ve been just really the leader going through this whole process. So we appreciate your expertise and what you’ve done here for STI-CO. And then last but not least, we’ve got Lance romance. Oh, wide Lance. Happy Friday. How are you my friend?
Lance Owide 02:33
I’m fantastic. I’m very, very excited to be here. This was the highlight of my week. That’s the bill that I was I was so curious. How are you going to segue yet amazing segues for everyone’s like, how you gonna work loans. And I’m just I’m just so grateful. You guys invited me on? The STI-CO story is fantastic. And I think everyone that’s listening is going to really enjoy hearing it.
Curt Anderson 02:52
Well, this is great. And just in Lance is boy just a relentless e commerce. I call myself the E commerce evangelist for manufacturers. Well, Lance is just an E commerce evangelist for anybody in the b2b space at Big commerce. And so we’re gonna take a deep dive. And John, we’re gonna come back to you and talk about, you know, what you do at above the fray and helping manufacturers, but really like how you aligned, you know, STI-CO with big commerce and why we felt that was a best fit for the E commerce solution. But what I want to do is I’m going to come back to our featured guest here, Kyle.
And so Kyle, let’s start with this great, wonderful manufacturing company made in USA women business owned, it’s just so much about be proud. This is a great facility that we’re in it’s 78 degrees today. No humidity. It’s just a beautiful day where we are. But cow just a little bit just you know who cycle What do you guys do? Let’s get a little history there on what’s going on in Sure.
Kyle Swiat 03:47
Well, Staples actually been around since 1967. My dad started the company many years ago, and I worked there as a kid soldering and cutting cable and all that good stuff. years. Yeah, unfortunately, died fairly young. And my stepmother took over the company from there. And then I came on board in 1999. We design and manufacture right here in this building antenna systems for mission critical applications. We do high performance antennas.
They’re very critical. The communications type of environment that we deal with are very critical. They can be a SWAT application, a covert application, military locomotive, all different types of antenna systems.
Curt Anderson 04:41
Wonderful. And again, they just moved in a call last year its manufacturer, John, if you recover and we’re in the midst of this, you know, but Kyle, what a relentless entrepreneur she is. She’s like, Hey, I’m going to take on this big ecommerce project. Oh, by the way, I’m going to move my whole facility and how many how many square feet do you have here? Do you
Kyle Swiat 04:58
have about 26,000 scored.
Curt Anderson 05:01
And it’s a I might be posting some pictures because I’ll tell you if you guys ever get a chance to John, when you come up next, I know like, you know when your Cincinnati Bengals beat us up in the playoffs, I think was it your daughter that came to the game did you share with us that wasn’t very nice. But next time you come up for chicken wins here in Buffalo, New York, we’re going to take you on a tour. It’s a wonderful just state of the art facility that they have here at cycle. It’s just fantastic.
And so what they’ve done, you know, made in USA products mission critical. We’re going to show you guys some examples, but we’re going to take a deep dive. Next what I want to do for our case studies, I’m bringing back my buddy Ryan case. So Ryan, let’s talk about the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, if anybody’s like, Hey, what is this an EP that you’re talking about? Can you just share quickly? What is the manufacturing extension partnership network?
Jon Guess 05:45
Ryan Case 05:46
I mean, manufacturing extension partnership network is across all 50 states. It’s a program that is dedicated to help small manufacturers, which is manufactures less than 500 people get resources and help them grow their business in whatever way possible, whether it’s helping with manufacturing strategies like lean manufacturing, quality management systems is a big one sales marketing also. So then all the things that are small manufacturer might need, we tried to help coordinate and or help implement different strategies to help small manufacturers succeed across the country.
Curt Anderson 06:20
That’s fantastic. And just share a little bit of like, how did your paths cross? Or how did you come into? You know, you’re just so passionate working with manufacturers? How did you guys how did your paths cross? And like, how did you reach out to an MEP to
Ryan Case 06:33
help you with your with
Curt Anderson 06:35
the situation here?
Kyle Swiat 06:36
Yeah, back in about 2005, I’d say we wanted to become ISO certified as a company to show our customers that, you know, quality was of utmost importance. And I could see the requirements becoming more and more important and important in the market.
So we partnered with insight to accomplish that goal, which was really improved our operation many times over. And then from there on, we have been partnering with them on operational and growth projects for many years. And it’s really been a huge benefit. Because, you know, we’ve increased our efficiencies. We’ve grown the number of people we have here, our markets. So in many ways, like there’s so many through the years that they’ve really been a huge benefit to the company. So yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so,
Curt Anderson 07:34
what’s awesome is, you know, if you’re a manufacturer out there, and you’re like, hey, wait a minute, man, I would love to have an MVP. Well, guess what, you have an MVP right in your backyard, do a little Google search or reach out to me, and we’ll get you connected.
But there’s an MVP in all 50 states and which is awesome, is you have high level experts like Ryan and there’s just a wealth of information. There’s over 1300 employees that work at the MVP network in the United States, just working tirelessly helping manufacturers be more competitive on a global scale. And as Ryan just mentioned, it could be ISO it could be lean. And now you know, since COVID, kind of came on the scene.
They’re really doing a great job helping manufacturers with digital transformation, digital sales, growth opportunities, and E commerce. I’m going to slide into the cool guests who’s next John guest, my friend who is above the fray, I’d say if Noah if you’re out there, Aaron Chris, boy, the team that you guys have put together a high level E commerce firm out of Portland, Oregon, I’ve had the honor and privilege of working on multiple projects with you guys. But can you just share a little bit of like your ecommerce story? Who is above the fray?
Jon Guess 08:48
Yeah, for sure. Again, thanks for having me today, you know, above the fray is and in the in E commerce agency. And what that means end to end means we do it all, from discovery in the beginning, when we engage with the client all the way to support and everything in between.
Um, you know, we have a team of over 60 employees worldwide, we have offices in Ghana and India and the Philippines and you know, basically have a team of highly talented developers that support all the major platforms, in particular, big commerce, which is part of the story today. So I’m excited to dig into that a little bit more. Um, you know, one thing that I do want to add about above the fray when we’re talking about who we are, you know, we have an award winning design team, our chief creative officer, Aaron Hans, one of our co founders.
And, you know, basically what that means to me is we were founded on principles of quality website design, we use best practices for UX UI mobile friendly websites, we make beautiful websites. And so, you know, it’s a little plug for ATF there but um, you know, we’ve got a great IT team you know if it’s if it has to do with digital commerce, chances are we’ve done it.
Curt Anderson 10:05
Well, you know what, John, if if you say you’re great, you know, say, hey, wait a minute might be bragging but you know what when other people say you’re great, then it’s just you know, it’s a testimonial and I’ve had the honor privilege of a front row seat on multiple projects with you guys.
I brother Chris is out there today, Chris, happy Friday name is out there name is going to come on, she’s going to be a guest of ours hopefully coming up pretty soon. So you know, you guys, just Integrity, Authenticity. Nicole, you’ve had the honor and privilege of working with these guys. What’s what’s been your experience working with above the fray? Yes,
Nicole Donnelly 10:39
I just think just so professional from the beginning, they really have from, from the clients that I’ve worked with them on, they’re really focused on really understanding the business operations very, very deeply. And they take the time to really dive deep there and have a really understanding, so they can architect and customize the solution for that for that customer.
So I’ve really appreciated their approach there. Because, you know, in manufacturing, every business is so different. Every product is so different has its own intricacies and how they sell it and all of that. And so I really appreciate that they take all that into account, and they’re really focused on listening to the customer.
Curt Anderson 11:16
Yeah, and that’s exactly what we did is we came in and we did diagnosis, and we’re just kind of like, Hey, what are the needs, and that’s, you know, Ryan, you know, reached out and we had a conversation. I’m like, boy, I think the team at above the fray would be a great fit here.
We connected with John and his fearless leader, Noah, boy, we’d love know if you’re out there, brother. And so what they felt was diagnosed in a situation, boy, we need to bring in the big guns, we need to bring in the big guys. So Lance, we reached out to big commerce, can you please share with anybody out there? Talk a little bit about what’s going on at Big commerce, my friend.
Lance Owide 11:50
Yeah, thank you. So for those of you aren’t familiar with big commerce, we’re a software as a service, e commerce platform 60 plus 1000. Merchants, many of whom are b2b, many of whom are manufacturers, we work with fantastic agencies like above the fray, and many other fantastic partners to help get manufacturers online. It’s a scary world out there, you look around, and there’s an article every other day about how b2b is moving online.
And for manufacturers, especially at the smaller end of the scale, that can be daunting and scary and a bit nervous. nerve racking, I should say. And you want a path that can get you online easily and get the tools to your customers that they want to be able to purchase products whenever they’re online whenever they come onto the website. And that’s what big Commerce does. So we’re, we’re a platform that’s built for growth.
So, you know, if you’re just getting your products online, we you know, we know that manufacturers are at different stages of their of their e commerce maturity, you might just be getting your products online, or you might be transacting for the first time, or you want to do quotes or invoicing and Bigcommerce supports you at each stage of that journey and will grow with you. And that’s what that’s what we’re we’re really about supporting our b2b manufacturers along that journey as they’re going and letting them pick and choose the partners that they want to use. Right.
There are hundreds of ERP is out there and many, many different versions and our our ethos is open SAS, which means you should be able to pick the best of breed partners to use that’s true with agencies, like above the fray, but it’s also true with the tech partners that you use, and they should be easy to connect into big commerce. And that’s what we’ve built an open infrastructure that allows you to connect all of that technology together, that allows your business to grow on on an E commerce site.
Nicole Donnelly 13:44
I love that so much I just can I just add something really quick. I just think for manufacturers, the jump from traditional selling to e commerce is such a huge transformation. And so to be able to meet them where they are, and it really is a journey, it’s not just Okay, we’re gonna launch this and we’re done.
And that’s it, you know, really is a journey and a process for them to try to acclimate to this new way of selling and so I really love that approach because it is a huge hurdle, you know, that change that that change that they’re going through, it’s it’s a, they’re changing their business model, they’re changing the way they’re selling entirely, they may have inside sales teams that have been doing it a certain way forever. And so to be able to meet them where they are and just kind of hold hold their hand through that process, I think is tremendously important for for these manufacturers to feel comfortable going forward.
Jon Guess 14:32
Agree. So really, um, you know, I just want to say we love the crawl, walk run approach. I think it works for a lot of those businesses that maybe have been a little hesitant. Be, you know, big Commerce does support, you know, a lot of those b2b rules out of the box. And so, you know, I think that’s the approach we took with STI-CO crawl, walk, run. You know, we launched the site quickly and now we’re iterating that we’re learning from those customers and it’s all fun after that right
Curt Anderson 14:59
off Fun and games after that, John, then what’s great, I love what you’re saying. Because you know what we’ve, you know, as you and I’ve been working together, we’ve been really hitting hard, like that phase approach, because Nikolas, you’re describing it, you know, when you’re a manufacturer, I don’t know, how is it stressful running, manufacturing, you know, just on your statement of the week.
You know, when you’re a manufacturer like Kyle, you know, one minute, you’re, you know, you’ve got to handle HR issue, the next minute of finance issue, then supply chain, then, you know, labor shortage, I mean, it’s been very challenging.
And so now to get into this digital transformation, you know, can be a little, you know, so John, I love how, you know, above the fray, we’ve been really focusing on, you know, taking that phase approach, you know, you guys came in with what you call the rapid deployment, I just absolutely love that phrase, love that line, we’re going to come in and what a great deployment for your cycle when you’re selling covert antennas, but kind of let’s turn to you now. So what was going on? What event occurred?
Where like, did you have an aha moment where like, you know what, I’ve got to get into this ecommerce game, like what was what was your mind when you reach out to with Ryan to kind of go this direction?
Kyle Swiat 16:04
Sure. Well, I always try, even though we are a small company, I try to be like a large company, a lot of our customers think we are larger company than we actually are. So one of the things I’ve noticed is, you know, I want to make it easy for the customer to get information that they need, and to quote and then eventually place orders online. So that’s one of the biggest things that I saw.
And this was trying to have the benefit to our current customer, and then down the road, hopefully gain some brand new customers that maybe wouldn’t have bought from us because they had either email or call us. So I just felt that this was just a natural progression. And also another way to compete, because like I said, a lot of the other companies are large, and they’re moving very quickly with E commerce and other types of, you know, online activities. So,
Curt Anderson 17:02
right. So Ryan, let’s turn to you, what do you hear in words on the street boots in the street? What are you hearing from other manufacturers? As far as like digital? You know, I know, like you and I talk a lot about, you know, different SEO strategies, but what are you seeing from different manufacturers that you call on as far as trying to make that digital transformation?
Ryan Case 17:18
It’s all over the board. When you’re talking about a customer base, as diverse as manufacturing, ownership, you know, in terms of experience, and level and, and you know, where they want to take their business. I mean, it’s really all over the place.
But I find the folks who are really thinking about that five year from now 10 year from now, aspect of life, that they’re they’re diving into it, right, you know, and so it’s it’s the forward thinking, you know, people say, Oh, am I going to be a viable business? And in 2033 is attenuation? That’s right. Yeah. So what are they doing to get there? Now? Those are the folks that really drive the conversation. Yeah,
Curt Anderson 17:59
I love that playing the long game. And John, you know, from as we’re probably both a little bias, is there. Is there a manufacturer out there that shouldn’t be on E commerce? What any, what’s your comment there on that question?
Jon Guess 18:12
I mean, I don’t think so. You know, we talked about maybe some of them have been hesitant in that industry. But, you know, at ATF we’ve invested in and in manufacturers a lot, you know, NOAA works very, very closely with ADM, we go to shows and expos every year with manufacturers, we know there’s something there. We know. You know, the the mindset is shifting, so to speak, and more and more coming on. And we think it’s just a we like working with those manufacturers. And so that we’ve invested heavily in it. It’s coming. I love.
Curt Anderson 18:46
Go ahead and recall how about that comment right there from Whitney Whitney. So So we I was, I was on a show with Whitney recently, and I didn’t put this together and Nicole, so she lives in Houston. They call her Whitney Houston. So anyway, I just wanted to share that real quick. Well, I know she’s talking MVP. But Nicole, what were you going to chime in?
Nicole Donnelly 19:06
Yeah, I was just gonna say to John’s point. I mean, Gartner just came out with a study last year that over 70% of the buying process is now happening online, and that’s for b2b buyers. So b2b buyers are online, they’re doing their research there. That’s that’s how they’re trying to find and vet their vendors. And so it’s just the data, the customers, the market is telling us that that’s, you know, that’s where manufacturers need to be if they want to get in front of their, their prospects and their customers. So, yeah,
Curt Anderson 19:37
yeah. And, you know, John, from a e commerce standpoint, you know, if there’s a manufacturer out there, that’s a contract manufacturer or costume manufacturer, they’re like, Hey, wait a minute, I don’t have that proprietary product. I feel left out of the E commerce game.
And I’d say that’s where, you know, for our preach with like the MVPs are working with those custom manufacturers. We’ve been really trying to preach to those folks. like wait a minute There is plenty of E commerce opportunity for that custom manufacturer. We’ve got a great question here from Paul. And I’m going to say great on this. And so I’ll throw this Lance, I’m going to start with you, John, I might come back to you.
But you know, if I have a proprietary product, and we’re going to show a few here from from Staikos and these great products they have, but if I have a proprietary product, I can certainly put that on ecommerce. If I’m a custom manufacturer, boy, there’s a I have an opportunity for configurators. John, let me start with you first. I mean, you know, boy, anybody comes to our show, they know I’m a huge, huge configurator fan, you guys offer a powerful solution at above the fray? Can you just explain like, what is a configurator? And how does that work for manufacturers?
Jon Guess 20:41
Yes, so you know, a lot of the manufacturers may have those, those smaller pieces where you’re going in and customizing and that can be done on ecommerce, we built some pretty sophisticated configurators where you can take that base product and go in and customize. I think one of the best examples is Nike tennis shoes, does it where you can go create your own colors on it. And you know, we’ve had plenty of industries and manufacturers that we built those configurators for and it’s possible, and it’s doable. And you know, it’s pretty slick experience online to when you when you get those.
Curt Anderson 21:16
It’s a great experience, we have numerous clients that are going that direction, and boy, the doors that it opens, just you know, it’s from, you know, and I can talk all day about it from an SEO standpoint, it’s very powerful. Given that, you know, as Kyle was saying, like, I want to, you know, catch what she said earlier, you know, Nicole, I missed that there was a mic drop moment, I wanted to make it easier for my customers to buy, right? So let’s let’s talk a little bit about a big commerce word.
You know, what is your kind of sensing from this stage? We love that you guys are just so dedicated to helping manufacturers going in this b2b space? You know, so for those custom manufacturers, can you talk a little bit about like, why is Bigcommerce such a great solution as far as like configurators? Are those customized solutions that they’re seeking?
Lance Owide 22:01
Yeah, I want to follow up with Nicole throw out a stat I want to throw out. One is as well, one of our agencies, they did a study recently, and buyers a very big agency out there. The number one KPI for a b2b buyer is purchasing efficiency. That’s what a buyer cares about purchasing efficiency, they want the process to be easy and simple and fast and quick, because time they’re spending purchasing is time they could be spent with their families or walking the dog or with the kids, right.
And that’s what you’ve got to have in mind, you’re doing this for the customer. Now there are sales team benefits, too. And those those are great. And we shouldn’t forget about those. They’re great for the manufacturer. But we got to put our customer hat on when we’re thinking about why are we moving on to e commerce.
And that’s what we’re driving for. So I love the story here, right, which is, what are the customers let’s let’s make the process better for our current customers first concept by bringing in the quotes, right and allowing them to quote the product, and then we’ll move to transacting online. And I love that story. But to your point, right, which is around, which was which was really around configuration. Configuration is key, that’s about being able to build the product, and then quote it. So with a big commerce b2b edition, quoting is built in. So you can, you can build that quote out. But our ethos is really about being open.
There are lots of configurators out there, and lots of configuration partners, or they’re being used by the manufacturers using big Commerce today. And what we’ve done is we’ve opened up the API’s not to be too technical, of course, we’ve opened up the channels, such that any configurator can be built in. And that’s what a what an awesome agency a lot of like above the fray can do. They’ll build that in and they’ll build you a fantastic front end that will allow you to customize that on the fly, and then price it right.
And then if you want to go all the way through to a checkout, right from a quote, and then to checkout. And that’s what you know, that’s the dream. I think that’s the dream anyway, not everyone might agree with me, but to me as a, you know, as a manufacturing ecommerce evangelist. That’s what that’s what I love to see. I just think that’s the process that customers want. And the sales teams love it, too. They can focus on getting new customers, right, rather than having to pick up the phone and take those quotes over the phone.
Nicole Donnelly 24:17
Yeah, and salutely works. I mean, we have a client that has implemented this amazing quoting configuration tool. They’re in the solar industry. And so their installers can go to their website and basically, you know, set up and spec out their entire solar panel system, get a quote right there. And it’s working amazingly well. So it absolutely works. I’ve seen it work and it’s it’s exciting.
Lance Owide 24:42
So there’s an example on big commerce. There are a very big manufacturer, they sell custom desks, and the number of configurations once you’ve added all of the different types, it’s It’s millions, it’s just there are so many different types of configurations, and they’ve got a beautiful little Little GUI where you can see what’s been added. And you can change all the colors. And it’s, it’s fantastic.
Curt Anderson 25:07
It’s just so exciting and just look at the tools that manufacturers now have and again, is we’re striving to be as competitive as possible on a global stage. Now to call on a side note, I need to pull up something here. So our dear friend Whitney, Houston says,
Nicole Donnelly 25:23
Nicodemus Oh, man, Whitney, did
Curt Anderson 25:27
my mom call you for that one. I don’t know. Thank you, Whitney, I love you, too. So I will keep the party rolling. So let’s get into some products. So you know, let’s get I want to give everybody an idea of like, hey, it’s great. You know, I hear you, you’re talking about it. I’m a manufacturer, I’ve got a little bit of FOMO. Right now, I’m going to get into this e commerce party. But I’m going to start pulling up some examples of products that are being manufactured right here in the United States, right here in Buffalo, New York. And so can we talk a little bit about some of their products, give them a couple ideas of what we’re doing?
Kyle Swiat 25:57
Well, we always try to come to market in a unique way to help solve a customer problem. So we’re not always a commodity item. And that’s where the differentiation and the configurable is all come into play, especially with the website. But one of our antennas that we came to market with was this flexible whip antenna.
And it comes in a number of configurations with different types of connectors and so forth. But the uniqueness about it is that you can actually bend it and tie it even in a knot and it won’t break. So that reduces the issues out in the field on police vehicles, where they can’t communicate because the antenna broke. This has been a huge success.
And this is just shows an example of kind of how we come to the market. We also, and this is one of the challenges with the E commerce but we have been able to think you work within the system, the E commerce site is that this is a covert antenna. It comes in different sizes, different frequencies, and different types of cable and connector zation. So the covert antennas are law enforcement folks purchase. So they can’t be spotted, we do all kinds of things on vehicle. We hide antennas all over cars, so you can’t be spotting them.
This has kind of been one of our Mainstays, you know, original types of products that we launched way back when my father started was covert antennas. So this gives you an example. And we incorporate that flexible whip once again, to eliminate breakage, because that’s a big problem in the field. So again, we do high performance antennas to really make sure that our customer is safe, because they are often in a high risk situation.
Another antenna that we do, which is more of a tactical antenna, so it’s a little bit of a difference is this one up here, I think you could see Portia see this back here. Um, that’s an interoperable, deployable antenna that was actually developed after 911. Because the firemen and policemen, they couldn’t talk to each other.
So we devised this antenna with a multi coupler and then allow them to talk simultaneously using the one antenna to each other. So it was really exciting product. And even to this day, we sell 1000s A year of this. So when we’re looking at a new iteration of this, because this one currently is, takes about 10 minutes to deploy. And you have to screw in the radials we’re looking for actually an umbrella version that I’m super excited about that will help the setup be much quicker. And this is used by National Guard US Army and homeland security departments across the country in the world.
So just to give you an idea of some of the things we do, we also work on locomotives, so we’ve designed antenna array systems that go on board Sure, if you want to show one of one of many types of antennas that we have, um, but we designed and optimized antenna systems on Local Motors and passenger rail systems across the country as well. And it’s a fairly complex situation on board Local Motors with a lot of technology. So that’s been a really fun and challenging market for us.
Curt Anderson 29:33
Right, right. Yeah. Excellent. All right, the call so for you guys that are new to the program. We have these things called like moment of silence Just when like somebody you know, we have mic drop moments, then we have moments of silence. Is everybody just beaming with pride of like what’s being produced here when you think about like our first responders out there, and right here, it’s dicho Kyle and her amazing team, I think 50 5050 a strong Give or take, and you know, making these products that are, you know, helping our first responders helping our folks and military saving lives.
I’m like, I’m just getting chills even think about it. You know, this goes on top of rail, you know, you just you look around the room that you’re in right now. And every item in your room and you know, your car, wherever you’re at was somebody’s vision. It was somebody, like somewhere some point there was a problem that needs to be solved. And like, hey, and what do manufacturers do?
They are problem solvers. Like, hey, we’re gonna make this, we’re gonna solve this, and just what it’s about a little round of applause for Kyle and the team. Here at cycle man, I’ve just man, I feel like running through a wall right now. So you’re at the MVP, you get to, like, no wonder you’re at the MVP, you get you get a taste of this on a daily basis? What are like some of the cool things are like, what is what inspired? Let me change the question, what inspired you to pursue a career in manufacturing?
Ryan Case 30:55
So I’m an engineer by trade. And you know, for me in any P standpoint, I worked for large multinational fortune 50 kinds of companies, right, and was doing stuff all over the world, right. And, you know, the opportunity to work in take the knowledge that I gained through all my trials, and deploy it in Buffalo, New York, my home, right, it was just, it was just too much to pass up.
So then you start working in just small manufacturers, and you see all these wonderful things that small manufacturing, people are doing this ingenious ideas, these cool little segments of where people are working, serving, you know, markets, helping people or just, it’s just super cool. And then, you know, at the end of the day, you’re helping people create jobs for your neighbors, right. So getting fed manufacturers, so let’s let’s get
Curt Anderson 31:45
right. Another mic trap right there, Nicole. So, John, let’s turn to you, my friend. And above the fray, I’m going to I’m going to come at you with a similar type question. You guys are just, you know, doing amazing work. You just said, you know, global 60 employees strong, you’re very passionate about helping manufacturers, what inspires you? Or why are you guys so you know, you could cover all sorts of different industries? Why are you guys so passionate about working with manufacturing?
Jon Guess 32:11
You know, we’ve spent a lot of time with manufacturers, as I pointed out earlier, you know, one thing that we do large custom builds, for some of our clients, they come to us with all these requirements, they can be well into, you know, six months of development time to a year plus, they can be, you know, six figure budgets. And, you know, we recognize that that’s not necessarily the case for all the clients.
So, you know, we spent the last year creating a Elevate, which is our rapid deployment for big commerce that, you know, for those clients that come to us that don’t have those requirements that don’t need to integrate with an ERP right away, can you know, and maybe don’t have those budgets can turn it around quickly.
Um, I think once we started the build phase with STI-CO, took about six weeks to actually build it. Of course, we had some design before that. But you know, we spent a lot of our own developer time to create that to make it easier for those manufacturers to come in, dip their toe in the water on E commerce and iterate from there.
I think, you know, one of the things Kyle said, that just struck me and it makes me want to shout it from the mountains, you know, she said, What can I do for my current customers who are used to doing the RFQ process, and then we can add it later. And if anybody takes anything from this today, that’s the thing I would recommend for manufacturers who are listening, take that in, you don’t have to do it all day one, let’s, let’s, let’s get online, let’s start transacting, let’s learn from your customers and iterate from there. So
Curt Anderson 33:47
you know what, I’m gonna I’m going off script a little bit. John, I’m going to talk about, you know, customer portals. You guys are huge, huge, huge and customer portal.
So for the manufacturer out there, especially like custom manufacturer, where they’re like, you know, hey, wait a minute, you know, when I’m thinking ecommerce, I’m thinking bless you. I’m thinking, you know, like, you know, boy, my spouse bought something on Amazon comes in next day, you know, this is a different, a little bit more complicated. And I know, you know, no disrespect to any manufacturers, they’re like, you know, hey, our process is a little bit more complicated.
Talk about like, the customer portal, like, I’d say, I feel that you guys just hit it out of the park going that direction. Can you just kind of explain what the customer portal is and how that’s a great crawl, walk, run. Good face one.
Jon Guess 34:32
Yeah. So you know, a lot of the times these buyers are different a lot of the time their purchasing managers, they have long lists of products that they’re repurchasing. And so a lot of these b2b tools, you know, offer quick order functionality where you can, you know, import your your list of the products you’re buying, you can enter it by SKU.
A lot of them have requisition lists where you can keep track of those in the portal and makes it easy to go back the next time and repurchase those products that you’re You know, buying multiple times throughout the year. And so, you know, the portal is a great way to start, especially for b2b, especially for manufacturing to, you know, again, concentrate on those current customers, how can we make it easy for them to Translat, transact online, and then iterate from there. So, alright,
Curt Anderson 35:18
perfect. So, Lance, I’m going to pull up a comment I caught earlier. So Paul asked, okay, configurators are one thing but to make it to print make to CAD business that isn’t any, any use. I’m interested in know, if you have any costing engine, any comments there from either either of our esteemed panel,
Lance Owide 35:38
I think we need to dive into it a little bit more, but with you know, exactly what’s needed there. But with big commerce, you know, you can have priceless, so specific pricing for different customers, and you could price the individual items that might be needed for that.
But again, right, all our ethos is open SAS, and so you have access to the tools to be able to build it. And so I look to my my left, and my my my friends at above the fray who would love to dive deep into that conversation and understand how is big commerce is a base and powering that ecommerce engine, you could build that because I promise you they can they can solve it.
And I’ve seen I’ve seen cases where merchants on big commerce have created sites where you cannot you can upload a card and in the background, there’s a lot of calculation being done but a price can be can be configured and then you can check out with it. So you know out of the box maybe there’s some customization that we needed. But folks like above the fray love those problems. Yeah, yeah,
Jon Guess 36:41
I really actually got excited when I saw I would love to have some chats about that. And you know, I think he nailed it let’s let’s have a little pre ediscovery let’s let’s flesh out those requirements but um, I got excited
Curt Anderson 36:57
that’s right another configurator and there’s just so many solutions going on here. Hey, we got Nicole we got John Molinos here Diane by Friday. Can I know we’re coming in we’re over the top of the hour I haven’t been paying attention to the time to call so maybe you’re I don’t know if you’re watching the time I’m having so much fun. But guys, drop your comments your if you have any questions again, you know MEP, we’ve got Ryan case from the MEP, check out your local manufacturing extension partnership.
We’ve got John guests here from above the fray. If you’re looking for E commerce solutions, we’ve got Lance romance from big commerce big powerful solutions. Nicole, I’m gonna come to you for a question though. You’re my co host today. How about why are you so passionate about helping manufacturers?
Nicole Donnelly 37:40
Oh, great question. I love it. I’m so glad you asked. Manufacturers are the unsung heroes of our economy. They are the backbone of our economy. I you know, my father owned a Mac manufacturing business successfully. And I just love. I love the people that work in these businesses. I just think they’re doing amazing work, and it should be recognized and so many things.
I’m looking at my desk and all of these things sitting on my desk, they were all manufactured somewhere. And I just think, man, it’s just we got to celebrate it. We got to celebrate the work that’s being done. We need more and more people to get into manufacturing, especially women. And I’ve just that’s that’s one of the reasons why with my business. I wanted to specifically go in that direction because I just love, love, love love, especially American manufacturers. So yeah,
Curt Anderson 38:27
I love this. Ryan’s getting some love here from Diane buyer. Diane’s with tack. So MEP, we love our MEPs. And she says our backbone absolutely dropped the mic. So that’s a perfect segue. So when dad started this company, you know, had a vision dream and built this up what a legacy.
And just for the record, if anybody was wondering, so I’m one year younger than this company, Nicole, by the way, so I just wanted to point that out. So one year they called me by one year. So since 1967, STI-CO has been providing incredible products throughout the country, providing just wonderful jobs. I’ve become friends with a number of folks here. And just you know, what a great team here. You could have gone different directions, what what attracted you to come into manufacturing and kind of carry dad’s legacy?
Kyle Swiat 39:12
It’s really quite honestly, it’s too often, you know, I’m super proud of what he built. And I wanted to continue that legacy and keep it for the future. He he was a ham radio operator, engineer, wannabe cop. And, you know, he loved antennas, and he knew a lot of police and law enforcement. So he discovered a real need for the covert type of antennas. So I felt, you know, what a unique industry, what a great, you know, opportunity to do just keep his legacy continued things continuing. So I’m very proud of that.
Curt Anderson 39:52
Well, excellent. And we’re talking a little bit about the future of, you know, I’ve talked with your engineer your sales team, just kind of like where do you see things Go into your excitement with the e commerce Store. What do you see for the future here at stake go?
Kyle Swiat 40:05
Well, again, I first see, like, you know, it’s a revolution, or evolution, not a revolution. So in the E commerce site, we’re heading towards what we have the ability to do the quoting. And then we’re going to be moving, like I said, at some point into, hopefully fully commerce, but still have the ability to connect with our customers, you know, via email, and phone.
But as far as like the company itself, I foresee us getting more and more into the military market and some other types, 5g Technologies MIMO you’ve seen it all with just your cell phones, technology is changing very, very quickly. So we’re looking towards disaster communication kits, other types of business to where we can integrate different types of technologies together to provide a solution to our customers. So it’s how I our strategy for the future.
Curt Anderson 41:07
Excellent. So MEPs, future for manufacturing would like workforce has been a challenge. Supply chain has been a little challenging kind of boots in the street, what do you seen as far as direction for manufacturing overall kind of clients that you’re working with? Or what are you hearing as far as the direction going?
Ryan Case 41:24
I mean, they’re going up, right? And so the orders are falling for most part, factories are full and Rose, there’s a huge need for continued evolution, and even that great word, you know, from not only from your interaction with your buyers in your, your sales and marketing, but from your, your factories with automation, or, you know, just you’ve only got so many people working for you now.
So how do you get the most out of that, whether that’s lead, whether it’s adding some automation as little of both, you know, how do you integrate a smoother from the front end down to the back end, but it’s really about evolving, and those who don’t evolve, you know, won’t have the opportunity to so you just got to keep keep keep go?
Curt Anderson 42:06
That’s all right, man. Was that another mic chop, there was a call. So that was okay, Brian. We’re gonna start winding down. So my eight guests who’s next again, John, so John is future of E commerce would like where do you see folks going, there’s a manufacturer going out there out there, and they’re listening to this. They’re like, man, like, Dude, I like you had me at hello, I’m just so fired up about e commerce. What’s like a one on one? What’s like a good first step for a manufacturer out there any advice that you would lend to kind of get that ecommerce journey started?
Jon Guess 42:39
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t start with an agency, whether that’s above the fray or not, um, you know, we have a philosophy that, you know, every client that we go through a pre ediscovery process with, you know, we’re not the right fit, we’re going to help you and guide you. And even if that means you’re going to another agency, that’s fine. And that’s that approach has worked well, for us, um, you know, not every client that we run through pre ediscovery do we end up working with and that’s fine.
We want to help people. And as long as we take that approach, you know, it works for us. So, um, reach out to an agency, they’re going to ask the questions, they’re going to help guide you to flesh out those requirements. They’re going to make a platform recommendation that would work you can start, you know, going through that process to see what that first iteration would look like. And I would start there,
Curt Anderson 43:27
right, love it. And hey, I just I want to shout out to you, your team, your passion, your dedication, I tell you just you know, you’re a guy of integrity, just love working with you and just I’ve learned so much. And so just I gotta run applause for John guests for being a great guest on the program. Thanks,
Jon Guess 43:44
guys. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Curt Anderson 43:46
Absolutely. Hey, gals here today Gail. Happy Friday, man. Bam, another powerhouse show. So Gail, thank you for joining us. We are having a blast. Guys. If you came in late I encourage you I invite you I welcome you hit the replay button, man just catch us anytime. You can catch us on our website.
You can catch it on social you catch it on Damien’s LinkedIn profile. This was a great conversation. Incredibly inspiring. Women in manufacturing. We’re talking Made in USA. Lance, let’s site over to you, my friend. Any advice for manufacturer out there? Like they’re just kicking off just starting their ecommerce journey? Where do they start? How do you reduce that overwhelm and just kind of get that party started?
Lance Owide 44:25
Yeah, I think you know, an agency is a great place to start. It’s really about understanding your customer. Right and kalatop Smith, and she put it so well. But you have to understand what is your customer’s buying journey. What do they want? What do they care about? What is we know their KPI they care about purchasing efficiency, but what is efficiency mean to them? And I tell all of our all of our manufacturers start there until you’ve understood that customer journey and their and their desires.
What do they want from an E commerce site? It’s very hard to start on a transformation. And so that that’s, that’s my advice to all manufacturers out there, start there. Once you’ve done that, find that agency. And then hopefully that platform they recommend will be big commerce because we’re the best fit for b2b manufacturers out there. And you’ll get online and suddenly the world’s your oyster, and then you’ll be able to iterate and improve and go from quoting to live transacting. And you’ll have a fully fledged manufacturing ecommerce business that is powering growth well into the future.
Nicole Donnelly 45:32
The call job the mic
Curt Anderson 45:35
here so Lance, that was phenomenal. And so as you want to connect with Lance on LinkedIn, for sure, well, I saw it Lance, I saw you had a vast UBS finance career. And again, I think you’re just getting a sliver of just the amount of talent and just passion of folks that are just dedicated to helping manufacturers from different walks of life, John long each ecommerce history that you have when you that you bring to the table. And I love what you guys are saying is like find that trusted guide, someone that’s been there that’s gone through the trenches in this space to help get you through it.
It’s not perfect is it? It’s, you know, it’s a little challenging, get jumping into this ecommerce journey for the first time. The call, I’m going to slide over to my friend, any parting thoughts is from your perspective, you know, I know you’ve been in front row seat working with Kyle and the team here at stagecoach, you’ve gotten a great flavor of what’s going on with these covert antennas, rail antennas, any, any parting thoughts that you want to share? From your perspective?
Nicole Donnelly 46:33
I would second everything John. And Lance said, I think that manufacturers need to think long term they need to think long game, when you’re going into E commerce.
At first, it may seem like this massive, and it is it’s a big investment. Right. But if you think long term and really like understand what those efficiencies are going to be once you invest in E commerce to your business, in terms of labor efficiencies, you know, for example, a lot of manufacturers that we work with, they have purchasing agents that are purchasing their products over and over and over again, those people don’t need to call and talk to someone to reorder, that’s time that those sales reps could be spending doing something else.
And just think about how that time adds up over time and the you know, the incredible efficiency that you can build into your operation as a manufacturer, by just letting all of that happen online, you know, so I think for manufacturers, you just got to think long game, you know, you may seem really overwhelming at first, and it’s a huge investment.
But you’re you know, you’re not looking at just this next year or even next year, you’re looking at where do you want your company to be 510 years from now and building the infrastructure to get you there so that you can realize some of those operational efficiencies. So that’s my advice.
Kyle Swiat 47:48
I would just say is, you know, John, and the team there, they really kind of walk you through it. They spent a lot of time and took it in small steps, but quick steps. And so they really help that way. Because obviously, we knew nothing about e commerce. So you’re very patient and helpful. And I have to say, really made that transition much easier on us. Well,
Curt Anderson 48:15
how about a round of applause for John and the team there. So a great job, John. So that was fantastic. So I’m gonna give last word to our steam get the premiere guest today, Kyle. So Kyle, so you jumped into E commerce, you want to make it easier for your customer?
I love Lance, what you said, you know, just that efficiency is just, you know, just so profound. Moving forward, if talking to your younger self, I have a young teenage daughter to the next generation coming up. Okay, women in manufacturing, we need young people in manufacturing. Why should or why are all the cool kids and they’re not thinking about why should all the young young folks be considering going into manufacturing? Well, it’s
Kyle Swiat 48:59
needed. There’s such a demand for USA based companies, especially that was really highlighted during COVID. So there’s a huge opportunity I see for anyone male or female, whatever. But definitely females, I think kind of sometimes bring a different way who do business and do it maybe it’s slightly different than maybe some of the traditional but either way, I just foresee a lot of opportunity for manufacturing in the future. Awesome.
Curt Anderson 49:32
Okay. And that I think will start winding down here, Nicole. So first off, guys, if you know anybody for everybody out there catching us Whitney, Diane, John. You know, Gary, everybody has been dropping comments. First off, thank you. Boy, we appreciate you. Everybody joins us week in week out. We never take this for granted and just you know everybody comes here is so passionate about helping manufacturers.
So if you’ve been hanging out if you’ve been sitting for the past however long that we’ve On this a great opportunity if you want to stand up, maybe get a little stretch. And how about give a big standing ovation for this esteemed panel that we put together. I don’t know how I’m so fortunate and so blessed. So I’m going to go around the horn. So John gets above the fray, please connect with John on LinkedIn. John, thank you, my friend. Appreciate you, Lance. Appreciate you, dude, this was just great love, your accent, your passion, your expertise.
Thank you for what you’re doing to help with manufacturers. Ryan case, if you guys if you’re a boy, if you’re if you’re local here, you’re lucky, you know, you’re lucky to have a guy like Ryan. But again, there’s 1300 representatives with the MVP network around the United States, just Google Manufacturing Extension Partnership, they’re there to help you as a manufacturer. And of course, another round of applause for Kyle Swiat, president of STI-CO, and again, just this came out of 911.
You know, like, look at these products that she’s putting together for our military for our first responders. So again, just what, thank you what an admirable, you know, what a great way to make a living has something to be proud about right here. There’s 50 Some lives that are out in the community, thanks to you know, her leadership and her vision. And so we just appreciate Kyle, Kyle. Nicole, thanks for filling in today. I appreciate you more than you know,
Nicole Donnelly 51:20
this was such an awesome show. And thank you, Kurt. I mean, you brought all of these masterminds together to put together this really awesome solution for STI-CO look at you bringing all these superstars together. So, thank you, thank you for all the work that you’re doing to really help help these manufacturers. It’s so inspiring. And I just think it’s so great to be part of this project and love it. So thank you.
Curt Anderson 51:43
Well, thank you and hey, we’re getting some comments here. So hey, Gary, again, Gary’s down the road in Rochester, New York and say, Hey, again, Whitney Houston. Thank you guys. So hey, we’re gonna sign off we thank you. We appreciate you and we’ll sign off on this so Lance, John Coleman asked you guys to hang out one second. We’re gonna close out but how we close out guys is just be someone’s inspiration, man.
If you weren’t inspired by all this, and this panel today, boy, we need to know code. We need to check our polls, I guess if you weren’t inspired, but just go out and be someone operation like Kyle and the team here today. So guys, thank you. We’ll see you guys in our next program. And so have a great weekend. God bless. We’ll see you soon.
Nicole Donnelly 52:25
Thanks, guys. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks.