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Nancy O’Leary, Damon Pistulka
Damon Pistulka 00:02
All right, everyone, welcome once again to the faces of business. I am trying to retain my composure because I was laughing so hard with Nancy O’Leary here before we got to. But I’m just excited to have having here today, Nancy, we’re going to be talking about the vulnerable, mounting sustainable business growth. I mean, that’s what your you’re doing there with custom direct, and lots of other good stuff. Thanks for being here.
Nancy O’Leary 00:31
Oh, gosh, thanks for having me. I think we should tell everybody what that kind of what the punch line was. And it was, it was just about the fact that I have four sons. And I learned very early when they were really little, that when you communicate, if you need something done, you need to tell them in two sentences, because after that, there’s really a depreciating level of interest or attention. And so, as an adult, and in my work, like, people think I’m really blunt, and I’ve been told that in a positive way, and then sometimes in a way, like, Ooh, you know, you’re kind of blunt about that. But I think, Damon, it’s been like 20 years of like, honing that, like, you know, it’s like, boom, boom, and you’re done. I think that’s why I love social media. I love posting on LinkedIn, because you know, it’s all about that first sentence to grab them. And then maybe one or two more to kind of keep it going. But you know, I I tend to be the short post person rather than like the long form the long form is kind of a once in a great while, but yeah,
Damon Pistulka 01:31
it’s so hilarious, because as you’re talking to you, I grew up with three brothers. So my mom raised four boys as well. And some of the things that would freak other moms out, you’re just like, yeah, she’s another day.
Nancy O’Leary 01:46
Yeah, definitely. injury, you learn to stop freaking out when someone runs past you. And then they run back and they’ve got you know, bandaids or, you know, any other paper towels. Paper towels made me more nervous than BandAids, because I thought, well, if it’s a bandaid, it can’t be that bad. But when they’re running with the paper towels under their hand, you’re like, Okay, what exactly is the liquid that’s been dispersed? And you know, how serious but then you kind of wait,
but yeah, that’s so great. That’s so great. I
Damon Pistulka 02:16
still remember when I when my wife and I were first together. She said, I don’t want our kids to ever go to the emergency room. And I’m like, What’s that? I mean, I guess it was like, it wasn’t um, it wasn’t monthly occurrence for us, but it happens. It just happens.
Nancy O’Leary 02:35
You know, I am. My youngest is the one that was a frequent flyer. Literally, practically, from the beginning. And up until then, we were really lulled into complacency. Because I was kind of thinking like, we got this we got this everybody textbook though the ER all the time of boys, we’re fine. We’re fine. Well, Charlie comes along. And I mean, you know, totally made up for his brothers. And then some, then all of a sudden, the oldest one has like a series of kind of like an accident, like a car accident, but like, draws blood, like bad things happen in he’s in his 20s. And, you know, he’s in college and like, what is going on? Like, I kind of already hit you off my radar, you know? Yeah, I was in the safe zone. I just had to get you know, Charlie up through the system. But um,
that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, you know,
Damon Pistulka 03:32
it’s cool talking to you a day. I mean, you’re you’re there in the western Chicago area. 25 or so miles from downtown Chicago. It’s a it’s a cool area. I mean, what if people have or have not been around that area of the country, it’s it’s got so many different things around manufacturing, industrial stuff, and drive a little mile, you know, few miles and you’re out in the country. Again, it just is such a such an interesting area.
Nancy O’Leary 04:05
It really is. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago, the northwest side. And from what I’m told, you can tell that, by the way, I say Chicago, but born and raised there, and I absolutely love the city of Chicago. My kids were raised going and all the time we would take the train, go to the museums, do all those same things that we did growing up. And then the decision was just made. Once I finished college, and my husband was finishing up. Our jobs took us to the suburbs, so they knew we made that painful decision, or kind of a lifelong Chicago and it’s kind of hard to say, Okay, I’m going to the suburbs, but we did. And to be honest with you, we’re resettled, we just love it, you know, we’ve stayed in this immediate tight area, it has kind of a small town vibe, but still, you know, we’re 30 minutes from Chicago, you know, in Bo itself. And so, it for us, it was a great day. So that was a really cool mix of still being close to everything Chicago has to offer. But then still, like you said, you know, you’re out in the country, if you drive 15 minutes west of us, you’re in cornfields. I mean, it’s incredible, that diversity that there is in such a short, small geographic area that I think a lot of folks just aren’t aware of. So you’re absolutely right. It’s a cool place. I love it.
Damon Pistulka 05:26
Yeah. Well, let’s today let’s let’s talk about your your background. I mean, because you did you did go to school for marketing, and, and those kinds of things, but how did you really decide that that’s what you wanted to do. And then then ultimately, ending up with custom direct and helping manufacturers, industrial companies and, and, and areas of of business, help them grow.
Nancy O’Leary 05:55
Alright, so believe it or not, I really don’t like talking about myself. I don’t know if most people do, but I don’t. But But But the long and short of it is that so if there’s anyone that watches this, that either they themselves are struggling in their career, you know, they’re not sure they’re on the right path, or they’re maybe not really enjoying what they’re doing right now. And especially the chance we’ve got somebody that’s maybe in college, or is just finishing up maybe this year, having really coached three adult children now, through the college system, and remember, in my own anxiety and panic in college, like, Okay, what am I going to do with this major? You know, how am I going to make my positive impact on the world? What I’ve learned, and what I’ve encouraged with my kids, and I have to say, it’s, it’s been tremendously beneficial for them, is I say, don’t get too caught up in it. Pick a major that you’re interested in, if you’re already in college, and you’re already pursuing it, and you’re not really quite sure. I’m going to tell you finish up, just finish up. At the end of the day, when you complete college, if you’re in college, and we’re going to talk about the tremendous opportunities if you were to choose a career manufacturing, so I’m not going to delve into the counseling too much. But basically, just say, yes, say yes to opportunity, don’t be so stuck on what your career is going to look like, when you haven’t even started it yet, you know, coming out of college, just get a job, get that first job under your skin. And I almost want to say it doesn’t really matter what it is, you know, to some degree, because you’re gonna learn pretty quickly, what you like and what you don’t like. And having a full time career job is so different than any part time job you might have had, even if you work full time in the summer, it’s not a career job. So just get going and then say, yes, say yes to opportunities at that job to try something different, to do something different to take on more responsibility, because you’re going to learn so much in that first year on the job, about your own interests, your own capacity for stress, your own capacity for organization, maybe even for leadership already. So go ahead and say Yes, it’ll take you on such a cool path, that I guarantee you, without a shadow of a doubt, you are going to eventually it might be sooner rather than later, who knows, you’re gonna land on a job that you’re going to absolutely love, that’s not going to be a job for you anymore. It’s literally going to be your passion. But I think so many people get caught up thinking they have to find that passion first. And I just think that’s such a hard expectation to ever, ever meet. I mean, you know, I think you and I are old enough, you know, folks that picked careers, let’s say in medicine, or maybe education, some degree if there was a real strong trajectory, and you had to take these classes, and you had to get this advanced degree, because you were going to do this specific job. At some point, everybody gets a little burned out with their career and you’ve invested so much in one specific thing. What do you do when that hits you and for everyone, it’s a little bit different. And if you have the ability to pivot a little bit, to kind of take that experience and that knowledge and kind of twist it in a slightly different way. There’s such a sense of renewal, and it really gets you kind of jump started all over again. And that’s that’s really what my career has been. So long story short, didn’t even start out a marketing major but wound up a marketing major and first job out of college had nothing to do with marketing took the first job I was offered. And back then I’m gonna take myself so you didn’t apply online, like the PCs were kind of just coming out but like the internet and stuff was like, so like you went to the you looked in the paper for a job and you sent a cover letter and a resume. And I sent a bunch of them out and the first place to get back to me, caught me up, brought me in for an interview offered me the job and I said yes, because I put myself through college. I was already living in an apartment. And I just wanted a job. I just wanted to make money and I I really didn’t care what the job was. And it was some kind of an admin level job. Didn’t sound especially exciting, but I thought what the heck, it was a really big company. And I thought this is kind of a cool opportunity, I think so let’s just give it a go. It was transformative, I can’t begin to explain how critical and vital that first job was. I wound up working on production scheduling, for a giftware company, a huge one that had factories overseas. So I’m dealing with a completely different culture and a completely different timezone. And the technology, when I first started the job, we had a room that had six fax machines, and two telex machines. And many folks in the audience might not even know what a telex machine No, but that’s how we got the schedules. And that’s how I got notified of changes. And it was my job to really keep track of all that and make sure that the team and, you know, in our company, and headquarters understood kind of what was going on, where we had a little bit of give wet, you know, leeway with the schedule, and what have you and where we didn’t. And so, you know, you’re learning giftware, especially there, you’re talking about holidays that are like three holidays away, so you know, where you’re closing out Christmas for the upcoming year, and so on. And it was fascinating, I found that I really had a propensity for organization and operation that had nothing to do with marketing. And I just threw myself into it. And ironically, just a few months on the job, they came around with desktop computers, PCs. And my boss was just a little bit older than I was, and he had no interest in taking it, he thought it looked like a word processor. And so he said, Well, Nancy, you can have it. And I was like, Are you sick? Yeah, well, I’ll take it. Sure. Well, I mean, that was just the gateway, then to all that information that I didn’t have to get any more from a fax machine or a telex. So like, I was going down at lunch, and hanging with the IT guys in the basement, you know, kind of learning how they were doing it all. I was able, here I am just like, you know, as my dad would say, a whippersnapper, you know, right out of college. And within my first year, I’m explaining to them, here’s how I’m using the systems. And here’s how I’ve been able to automate, you know, how we keep track of all this. Their minds are blown, my mind was blown, I just had an absolute blast with that. And then you have actually things changed three, four years down the road, the company’s kind of going in a different direction. And then I did as well. And I really jumped into an IT operations role. After that, and led a team of support analysts who were helping sites for this company all over the country, utilize software that was being built internally, we had our own dev team, and the the apps were all operations related, you know, Route Optimization, maintenance, scheduling, tire rotation. And then that was fun. And it just really reaffirmed that operations was my dive, like I was so passionate about helping folks optimize what they did, so that they could do things more efficiently and easier, and absolutely had a blast with it, and did that for quite a while. And then life has a funny way of turning. And you know, we were chatting about that were married for several years. And then, you know, had four kids within six years. So I was extremely blessed that I was able to kind of pull back, do some consulting, stay home with the kids for a while. And then, man, as soon as that youngest kid was in kindergarten, you know, I was I was back at it. I was I was ready, I was hungry, and kind of lean back into it again. But it was such again, here’s a twist. In the interview I mentioned to these really nice people I was interviewing with it was a small consulting firm. And then things were going well. And then I said, you know, if you’ve really taken a close look at your website, and they said, Yeah, yeah, we got to do something about it. And they said, Yeah, there’s some spelling mistakes on it. And like, some of the links don’t work. They kind of looked at me and I said, you know, you’re looking IT consulting firm. Like, I think that’s kind of a bad first impression. And the two women that own the company started laughing, and they said, Well, what are you going to do about it? And I said, Well, I said, Well, would you build us a new website? And I said, Well, if you hire me, and they said, Okay, you’re hired. Now I had never built a website. I was getting into this would be the perfect gig like the hours were right. I mean, all of it was just phenomenal. So I took it and talk about saying yes, I mean, I was scared out of my mind. But um, I leaned into what I still knew it wise, but I really started having fun with the marketing side. So then I started, you know, obviously built the site then started marketing. The organization started getting interviews, you know, online with local business publications and things like that. And that was it. I mean, it was like a fire was letting me If this was what I wanted to do, and so then I did, I went to, you know, my next position was all marketing. And then the opportunity came up to join the team at Custom direct and talk about just this wild synergy, you know, when you’re a marketing major, your dream, especially in Chicago, is you’re gonna go work for a big ad agency downtown. So of course, you know, coming out of college, that would have been really cool, but my path was completely different. So it took me till I hit 50, to actually start working at an agency. And, and it’s not downtown, but I like this even more, the commute a lot easier. But it’s just a blast. And I don’t think, you know, sometimes when when you tell folks that you work at a marketing agency, especially if they’ve ever worked at one, you get kind of an eye roll. And folks will be like, Oh, wow. Now, I will say this, there is just a certain culture that goes with an agency, you know, there’s a level of creativity, a level of pressure, and then just outright fun. And it’s not for everyone. You know, you’ve had people come and we’ve had people go, and I think, you know, personally, for me, I came with just the right time. I don’t think any sooner my career, I would have enjoyed it as much. And I don’t know if I should have started any later. Because man, I need all the energy I can get. But it’s a blast i And so I say yes, I say yes to any you know, if there’s anyone out there that’s kind of struggling, that’s not sure. You know, we all know, the numbers with workforce and what have you, you know, say yes, take that chance, cuz I’m not saying, you know, just be completely wild. But gosh, don’t don’t get so caught up that you think you have to keep doing the exact same thing. Yeah, I pitch. That’s,
Damon Pistulka 16:47
that’s great advice. Because you know, so many people, and I really am amazed. I’m amazed, like, if you see somebody that gets an accounting degree and goes out and does accounting, like public accounting, and just starts and does it their entire career, just like how the heck do you do that? How did you know, from the age of 1819 years old, that that’s what you wanted to do, and you stayed in it that long? To me, it’s a foreign concept.
Nancy O’Leary 17:11
It is for me, and I think that if you, if you approach whatever you’re going to do after school, whether that’s high school, and then you’re going to enter the workforce, or college doesn’t matter, or whatever blend that you do, really keep an open mind. I mean, I think in this day and age, you know, we’ve really, whatever the stats are now, you know, the previous generation, it might have been your head, maybe two jobs or three jobs, your whole career, and that was kind of stretching it. And now, I mean, gosh, you could probably had three different jobs within the first five years out of college and that, yeah, or high school, and that wouldn’t be considered that unusual. That would be kind of the norm in some sense. So you know, I’m certainly not advocating jump around a lot. But really don’t. I’m a big believer in don’t put filters before, before you’ve even had an opportunity to see what your options are. I agree. Yeah, we tend to filter.
Damon Pistulka 18:08
Yeah, and we, we don’t know what we really want until we try some things. And that’s, that’s a that’s a big, that’s great advice, too. It’s great advice. Now, you mentioned, you mentioned college, you mentioned you’ve, you’ve helped several of your boys get through college or going through college. And but one of the things that I see now, especially if people are interested in manufacturing is there are so many opportunities that require a no college or a technical degree, that’s one or two years, which I think is absolutely incredible. Because when when you or I were in school, we just didn’t have those opportunities like that. And there’s some great careers, not just job careers.
Nancy O’Leary 18:56
Okay, so no one’s gonna believe this. But Damon and I really didn’t plan this part of the conversation at all. Oh, I, I you know, talk about what’s my passion, what drives me? It, I will not rest until I have gone horse repeatedly letting young folks and their parents know of the tremendous opportunities there are for a career in manufacturing, regardless of what that education path might be for you, and accustomed direct or actually putting our money where our mouth is. So this is like the first time it’s being said, like, live like anybody hearing about it. If you go to manufacturing mavericks.com That’s our initiative that we’ve just started in celebration of manufacturing month, which is the month of October, and all month long. We will be celebrating a manufacturing Maverick and we define that as a young adult who has chosen manufacturing as their career Here, they need to be within four years of completing high school, and they need to be working at least part time on the shop floor. And we see manufacturing Mavericks as a celebration of embracing manufacturing as a career. And that URL is going to show you a whole bunch of blank profiles right now. But come October 1, you’re gonna see all of the companies represented, we hope to have at least 20 Mavericks for the month of October for all the business days, but we might wind up as as many as 30, we’re getting a lot of nominations coming in Nice, the companies will be spotlighted. All month long the company logo, the links to their website, but you’re not going to know who the maverick of the day is, until we reveal it that day. And we have local media really interested, we have a lot of back sharing media that’s interested. And then we’ll also be posting it on LinkedIn as well. The other side to that, and the part that I’m incredibly excited about the maverick part is, is phenomenal. It’s great, everyone’s excited. But we also want to be that that I don’t wanna say clearing house, but we want to be that encyclopedia for students and for their parents who really don’t know where to go to get more information about what you just mentioned, where do you where are these trade schools? What are they? What do they offer? What do different high schools offer in terms of internships or the classes that they offer? What about community colleges, you know, what are those programs look like. And so, we have an entire resource section that will reflect all of the details of each of our Mavericks. So it’ll be under the Mavericks profile, but then you can also just go to the resources section. And you can find out more about the high school they attended and what those that program looks like, community college if they’re in one or trade school. And really the the idea is, as this program grows, year after year, and again, this is right out of the gate, we’ve been working on it, it’s been our passion project nice for all of us. So you know, we found some things that, you know, we had to kind of iron out some kinks. And we know that there will be more suggestions as time goes on. But the idea is, let’s get the conversation going. And we know a little bit about manufacturing, because it’s it’s the target audience that we have. It’s the folks that we love to work with. And we know a lot about marketing. So when you pull those two together, we know that messaging is key, and easy to digest, easy to locate information is vital. And we happen to think that manufacturing metrics is kind of a catchy URL that gets kind of easy to remember, there’s so many different programs out there, they have really long names, they have really long acronyms. And it’s really confusing, folks just don’t know where to go to find out about all of them. And so that’s our goal. And it’s a very lofty goal. And so, in the years to come, we’ll probably have a whole lot more than 20 or 30 mavericks and might even become something that’s an all year long celebration, but at least for right now we’re kicking it off in October. And we really want to stress the incredible opportunities there are in manufacturing, we want young folks to see Representative Lee and that’s really if anybody’s wondering, why is it within four years of completing high school? Because let’s face it, to somebody that’s in middle school, guess middle school, middle school or high school, you got somebody that’s 25 years old, their engine, you know, look older, they get started to get wrinkles, they can’t relate and their minds, it’s a little too old. We want students that again, are within four years, you know, that can relate towards so much better.
Damon Pistulka 23:44
Yeah. That is incredible. That is incredible. And if you average just thinking about this to me before I forget and men mentioned we get off if you want Kurt and I do announce the winners each week. We’ll we’ll mention all of them every week and our Friday manufacturing ecommerce success. Yeah, we’ll do it. We’ll Matt Well, we’ll we’ll do it. So we’re in for that because this is something that I cannot tell you. How many of my my son’s friends my daughter’s friends didn’t know what they were going to do. Getting out of high school. They didn’t go to any secondary which is fine, which is fine. But they had to they they went into jobs, and I still see them in some of these jobs. They’re not really careers and manufacturing. You can walk out of high school, go in there and start and you can turn it into a career. You can go to a technical college and turn it into a career. You can go get a four year degree in marketing or accounting or engineering or so many other things. It Turn it into a career in manufacturing. And I just so many, so many parents, so many children do not know, the kind of opportunities that they have waiting for him making the coolest stuff ever. All this stuff, the stuff that’s in the moon, you want to see SpaceX, where did that come from came from manufacture somewhere that started out as a piece of steel or aluminum or whatever alloy. And it was made that way somehow, and people with their hands and machines had to do that.
Nancy O’Leary 25:31
And while we’re focusing on students that are within four years of completing high school and already working in manufacturing, we’re not excluding anyone that’s in college. But naturally, if you’re working part time on the shop floor, you’re probably attending a community college. And that’s really who we’re targeting, we have absolutely nothing against anyone who’s pursuing a traditional four year college degree, that’s phenomenal. Chances are greater than that with whatever you major in, I don’t care what kind of engineering it is, you could get a job in any industry doing what you do, the difference that we want to make is that if you’re pursuing a career in manufacturing, working on a shop floor, that’s very specific to the industrial sector, you’re not going to be able to take that skill set necessarily, and easily translate it somewhere else. And that’s what we want to celebrate. Because that’s not to say there isn’t a lot of opportunity to build a career with different skill sets within manufacturing. But we really, really don’t want to take anything away from anyone going to college, we’re not going to talk about college debt and what those numbers look like, because that’s irrelevant. We’re talking about the opportunities that are there for you, if you pursue a degree or a career, I should say in manufacturing. And just today, we were at an economic summit, and the Southwest corridor, you know, of Chicago, so I’m like doing the little curve here, but, and daily college, it’s a community college, and we were able to tour their facility, they have 10,000 students, they have completely rebuilt and revitalize that entire community. And the facilities there are incredible, they have a state of the art manufacturing training center built right into the school. And you’re going to see a spotlight on manufacturing Mavericks. And the students that we encountered, these are students that are walking with their head high, their shoulders back. And just they are comfortable in their own skin. And I think it’s vital to mention that currently, right now, in traditional four year colleges, the enrollment numbers are so heavily skewed, that they’re more than 70% are women. And I want to let everybody think about that for just a second. What are the young men doing? If they’re not going to college, if generally, the population is 5050. And in college, it has been predominantly men, you know, obviously much more decades. And then we finally kind of balanced some things out well, it’s no longer balanced, it’s skewed, and it’s continuing to skew that young men are not going to college. Well, if they’re not, what are they doing? We want to be part of that solution. We want to help these young people don’t care men, women, there’s a lot of great initiatives out there to get young women interested in manufacturing. We’re all for it. But this is gonna go back to that filtering thing again, I don’t filtering anybody out. Why are we going to target one specific group, at the rate that we have folks retiring from manufacturing, we’re in a hole, we need everyone interested. In fact, I don’t even care if you’re 10 or 15 years, high school, if you’re stuck in your career, and you want to try something really cool. I encourage you not necessarily gonna nominate you as a maverick. But you know, really give it some thought. I mean, there’s just so many options. And you know, neither one of us has said this, but manufacturing is not the dirty, smelly, oily, gross that you might be associating it oftentimes almost all the time, a state of the art facility with a technology that is leaps and bounds above what it even is in some other sectors, because you might be thinking, Oh, well, what about medical? Well, what is the medical field using? They’re using equipment that somebody manufactured? Okay, you want to talk about computers, you want to talk about technology? Okay, well, what are they using? They’re obviously using the technologies that were built by a manufacturer. So, you know, it goes back to just that anything you look at right at this moment, had to be made. And, you know, that’s why I you know, I could fill five segments talking about the importance of getting to kid getting to kids while they’re still in grammar school, but there’s been studies done and by the time of child reaches fifth grade. So that’s middle school for a lot of school districts, they have already developed a very strong opinion on what types of careers they would not be interested in. And the number one influence for those students is what their parents think. And that holds true into high school in terms of parents influence on their child. And you may think in this day and age, now they camera what their friends think, no, you would be stunned to know, when it comes to those really big issues like career, kids are still turning to what their parents think. And so, again, we want this to be a resource, we want manufacturing Mavericks to be a resource for parents to, you know, if their kid starts talking about taking some class that was kind of like manufacturing, or, you know, they’re building Legos to build something that’s moving a wheel that’s pushing water and their understanding, you know what that kind of energy looks like, we don’t want the parent to immediately panic and think I’m gonna have to take out a second triple mortgage on the house, because this kid’s going to be an engineer, and it’s going to cost us an arm and a leg, and they’re going to start losing sleep and getting stressed. We want to say, you don’t have to go that path that your, your son or daughter may ultimately go that way. But there are so many ways for them, if that is their ultimate goal, to achieve that kind of education, without any of you going into debt with with you with that child having hands on experience, getting maybe that initial two year college degree, getting that certification, and to be honest, especially now, they may not ever go back and pursue any further education. Because on the job, education is so vital right now, we have that, you know, we’ve talked about this, without that, that brain dump kind of going on right now. You know, just trying to capture all that information from those folks that are retiring. You know, we can’t get folks into manufacturers fast enough. You know, which, which is one of the things I think we were going to try to talk about today. Yeah,
Damon Pistulka 32:11
we? Yeah, you know, so as, as I mean, it’s awesome talking, talking with you about this, Nancy, because I think this is one of the things that the manufacturers are gonna have to come to terms with over the next decade is, you know, how are we going to continue to attract more people? And how are we going to show people that manufacturing is really a different place, and when we talk about promoting sustainable growth. For manufacturers, sustainable growth really means being able to hire people. And I think it is, it is such a big thing. Now, the employment crisis for manufacturers, that they really have to think of their marketing in terms of, I want people to come to work here, and I want customers.
Nancy O’Leary 33:02
Ah, you know, I’m like taking a deep breath. So we, you know, it’s such a loaded, it’s such a loaded topic. So, you know, I, and I’m blocked. So I apologize, if I just come, I just kind of start blurting it out, but here’s the deal. We’re at such a critical point right now, that if you go to any industrial park there signs up, and you know, they’re battling it out for somebody’s attention, and they’re putting hourly wages up and what have you. And manufacturers will tell you that they can’t keep people oftentimes, because no sooner that I get somebody in somebody else, coaches, um, because they offer them $1 More an hour, which may not sound like a lot, but when you extrapolate that out, it adds up, or the opportunities might be a little bit different. And so the most vital task, to growing your workforce, the most important aspect is for you clearly show and demonstrate your company culture. And there might be some eye rolls, and there might be some people that think I’m out of my flippin mind. But here’s the deal. People tend to leave jobs. Maybe money comes into play, but it almost always has to do with leadership, whether it’s your direct boss, or it’s the culture of the company as a whole. That’s usually the reason that that first little thought entered their mind. I don’t know that I want to stay here and then they start searching and then they find you know, something that’s a slightly better wait. I just mentioned that, you know, folks might have skipped around, you know, for money. They might do that. But if you look at the other side of the coin, no pun intended. They would pretending to stay as the company culture is one that resonates with what they’re looking for. And the folks that we work with If that really don’t have a problem with the workforce are the ones that have the most impactful cultures, the ones where you have generations working there, where you have multiple family members working there, where they have lists of people waiting to get a job there, when there’s an opening, that are all part of some of the same families. And that all comes back to that to that culture. And I have to say, what comes up so often, when we’re when we’re talking with folks that are that are trying to understand what the best strategy might be for them to grow their business. And oftentimes, if, you know, obviously, if it’s a business, and this is across any industry, but particularly manufacturing, there’s a little bit of a lag, website’s you know, it’s the first impression that folks are getting, you know, a social media presence is great. And we could go on and on about that, because there are some some great channels that you should be on as a business. But most vital, is your website. And if your website does not clearly articulate when someone lands on the homepage, what you do right across the top, so whether they’re on a desktop or on their phone, right out of the gate, you’re kind of at a disadvantage, and you got a couple of seconds to draw them in, or they’re gonna leave. And constantly, constantly. Were told, Oh, but people really just care about what we do. We have all engineers coming to our website, and they just don’t they just want to get right to like the specs, they don’t really care. Like, okay, well, here’s someone’s gonna shock, perhaps a lot of people. The first page people tend to go to it used to be products and services, and then it would be maybe your about page, the first page by a wide margin that people go to when they land on a website, now is the about page. Everyone wants to understand your mission, your vision, your values, and your commitment to sustainability. Now, if you’re sitting back, again, you know, maybe you’re drinking some coffee, maybe you’re having a beer right now, because it’s, you know, 545, whatever you’re doing, and you’re thinking that, you know, I’m kind of wacky, I gotta tell you, the numbers are just there to prove it and get back at your about page matters. And if you think for just a moment, this next generation, that’s coming into the workforce that’s already been in the workforce and is still coming, and maybe now they’re even moving into some decision making world yes. They care how you treat the rest of your team, they care how you value sustainability, they care about the culture and the environment that you have. And if you’ve got a great culture, if you’ve got all those things, do you better have those on your website? And if you don’t have those things, get cracking. I mean, you gotta get working on it. Because literally, it’s going to be your biggest downfall. It truly is. Because as much as folks like to make jokes, or what have you, that, you know, there’s, there’s kind of a high priority among folks entering the workforce now, but you know, they have to like what they do, and they have to be really happy and what have you. And there’s a whole argument about working remote or not. And, and obviously, if it’s a manufacturing job, you’re not working remote, you’re there on the floor. But I say this as somebody that that does have adult children, you know, I think every generation tends to scorn just a bit. The younger generation, you know, there’s always something about them that, you know, you kind of roll your eyes. Oh, boy, you know, we didn’t do that we walked uphill, both ways to school. Yeah, you know, five feet of snow and what have you, and I say, you know, what, what’s the harm in just listening to this thought, you know, is the rat race as it were? Really? The right, the right culture? Is that really how everyone should live, you know, think for just a moment what their priorities are, look at how they’re finding unique ways to balance work in life. And before he just cast aspersions and throw it all out the window and think it’s all some kind of mumbo jumbo. Think for a minute. I know I certainly did. And I it really stopped me in my tracks and really made me reflect. And I really gave serious consideration to MIP passionate about what I’m doing. What can I be doing that would bring me even greater joy. And although I love working in manufacturing, my dad was a plastics mold engineer. I married an engineer I birthed and raised an engineer, you know, I’d like to say that like by osmosis. I’m like, you know, one half of 1% engineer just you know, from what I’ve observed, or other years, but but at the end of the day, gosh, that that balance that zest for life? How could you possibly make fun of that? And honestly, that’s where my passion comes from, when it comes to manufacturing. So yes, I’m absolutely in the right job. All of this has come together for a reason. But manufacturing Mavericks, oh man, I mean that that gives me a buzz just talking about it, because I know that this is going to be a game changer. For families who are looking for that step up, they’re looking for that economic climb, that maybe has eluded them a little bit and think that the only path for their family is to make tremendous sacrifices, and their their son or daughter is going to have to go to college, and it’s just going to be this overwhelming situation. Or they think, you know, they’re gonna, they’re gonna have to just take some kind of a job. And I just, I want to shout from the mountaintops as it were now, manufacturing, manufacturing career is there for everybody. So yeah. Anyway, I mean, I went off on a tangent there. But
Damon Pistulka 41:04
but you know what, I think that what you’re saying, though, is good, because what we’re we’re talking about today is, you know, promoting sustainable business and manufacturing and sustainable growth and manufacturing. And this is one of the key problems with manufacturers now is they don’t have enough people. And in the culture piece of this, communicating the culture, communicating your sense of community, and how we’re part of our community and help sustainability and all this is important. Because I don’t care who you are in manufacturing, I don’t care if you’re hiring anyone or not. Your people are the reason why you’re able to do what you do for your customers.
Nancy O’Leary 41:47
And so basically, we sometimes do buyer personas, and you know, sometimes they’re similar to like a voice of the customer, for anybody that doesn’t know. So you know, you’re just finding out why folks currently do business with you, or maybe why they stopped doing business. And you can put a profile together. And it’s, it’s more psychographic than anything, you know, it doesn’t have anything to do with any physical attributes. And it’s always fascinating that companies, before we embark on this journey together, will say, it’s our price, our price is the best, it’s people do business with us, because our price is great, or our product is like top notch. And I’m not discounting any of that. But what we find every single time is that does come into play. But the first thing people mentioned that love working with that company, it’s always the people, always, it’s always, you know, what the people they have, there are incredible, I have a problem, I make one phone call, or I send one email, and I know it’s handled. And, you know, you keep a great workforce and great team. By having that culture. You know, obviously, that keeps everybody so many different ways to achieve it. So I think, you know, if we, if we touch base on just a couple of things that we’ve seen, first and foremost, lead by example, kindness, kindness goes an awful long way. The golden rule, treat people the way you want to be treated. People remember when you treat them with respect, and they remember when you don’t. employee surveys, that might sound silly, but people love to be asked their opinion, when I’m sitting here chit chatting with you all about my opinion on a whole host of things. So ask opinions, employee surveys, annual ones, benchmark them, you know, ask, ask those tough questions, and listen to what the answers are. Absolutely make them anonymous, so that you get the most pure, accurate responses and take those to heart. I mean, really consider what people are saying. And other action that’s been very impactful for some of the folks that we work with is for folks that are willing and interested, interview, interview them on camera, you can use your phone and do just a short video clip, ask them a question, you know, why did they choose the career that they did? Or how does this career impact their family life? Or what would they like to do next, and then with their permission, you can use those videos as recruiting tools on your website, on your careers page. So when folks go to your careers page, there’s people right there. And it’s phenomenal. If you can get a mix of people that have been doing it for, you know, a long time and for some folks that are that are still relatively new. I mean, think about the fact that when folks are coming to your careers page and everyone should have one, they are able to immediately understand the personality and the culture of the company. Because they’re seeing it in people’s own words. Yes, And
Damon Pistulka 45:01
it’s so it’s so huge it this is this is because when you’re doing that, for the people that are going to be working there, it bleeds through to the customers. It’s like osmosis, it’s like if you if you build something where people are, are, yeah, work is work. And sometimes it’s not going to be, you know, you know, a game or something like that. But if it’s a good place to go, and you’re treated fairly and you and you are valued and you feel like you’re you’re supported and you are, you are building something better, you’re contributing to something, and these people feel connected to you, your customers will feel connected to you.
Nancy O’Leary 45:43
Oh, absolutely. So I think we’ve got just enough time to maybe touch a little bit, then let’s do it on growth initiatives. So, you know, we’re really fortunate. We’ve been around I think I mentioned for 35 years, and that’s, that’s what I’ll say, successful marketing agency. We love what we do. And we have partnerships with a lot of different manufacturing organizations. And then there’s this incredible entity that we partner with. That’s IMEC. And it’s the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Community Center center center, I always get to see per Ron, and for anybody that doesn’t know, they are a public private partnership, they receive government funding that’s allocated for the state of Illinois to support and enhance manufacturing here. And so what does that mean? Well, there that hand that’s out to you as a manufacturer to help you, if there’s training that you need, if there’s certifications that you need, ISO certification, ERP systems implemented, or changed or updated, or just plain fixed. It doesn’t come as too much of a stretch that we work with them, what’s considered growth initiatives, and those are specifically, you know, marketing strategies, specific marketing tactics. Now, usually, with a marketing agency, if you put us down, you know, you sit us down, and you say, Okay, so what’s the right way to approach growth, we’re gonna tell you, listen, we got to come in, we got to do an assessment, we got to look at where you were, where you’re gonna go. And all of that’s absolutely true. I know, I’m saying it kind of sarcastically, but it’s true. I mean, there’s, there’s a reason. But here’s the reality, if you’re a small size manufacturer winning, you have 19 employees or less, and you probably have 10 or less, you probably built the website, as the owner, or you had somebody that you know, did it maybe 10 years ago, maybe a little bit sooner, you’re probably beholden to somebody else to update it, or maybe you can, but you will alone, and nobody else at the company. And it’s not really reflecting at all what you do anymore. And it’s just kind of there. But you’re busy running the company, you might even be running some or all of the equipment. And so it’s just on that nagging task list that you just don’t quite get to. And it’s like, yeah, yeah. And then somebody’s talking about tic tac, and somebody else is talking about Facebook, and then LinkedIn, like, I don’t know, you know, why does that even matter? And so what we’ve kind of put forth is what’s turned out to be really, really successful approach, which is, let’s just get to the to the, I would say, brass tactics, but let’s just get to it. You want to grow? Okay? Where do you want to grow? Do you want to grow deep? Or do you want to grow wide, this is really cool. Because it’s kind of like a football analogy, you want to go deep, it’s you just want more of the same clients and customers that you currently have, you just want more of them, maybe once with deeper pockets, even if you want to go wide, that means you want a new target audience here, you want to get folks with your existing products or services, but you want to get outside of where you’re normally getting them from. And then if you’ve got a new use for a product or service that’s existing, or maybe just a whole new one, gosh, you know, that’s a whole special, fun approach on its own. But to just say, I want to grow, it’s really helpful to understand yourself, where is it that I want to grow? And you might not know, you might just say, You know what, I just need more sales, you know, I don’t really want to get caught up in it. Well, then I would tell you this, write this down. If you want more sales, take a look at your website. Is it mobile responsive? I want you to look at it on your desktop, but most importantly, look at it on your phone. And I don’t want to be captain obvious here. But I can’t stress this enough. How often companies and we have talked about this? They will how often sites are not mobile responsive. So I gotta tell you, you know, people are you’re on your phone, think about how often you’re on your phone. I mean, it has to be mobile responsive. And then the other thing is, are there links that don’t work? Your navigation should be very clear and straight. There should not be I’m so sorry. My dog just slipped out of my Oh, there. They Alright. Thanks for asking. And so, you know, what do I mean by clear navigation? Here’s the deal. You’re navigating From the words across the top of your website, that is not the time for you to be cutesy and clever and very creative and use all kinds of fun words. It’s just not you can use it in your content. But folks that are visiting your website, when they land, they have to immediately understand what you do. And I already touched on this a little bit, you know, there should be a very clear statement, that immediately tells people above the fold, if you’re on a desktop, you know, right at the top, if it’s on a mobile device, it’s gotta be right at the top. It’s irrelevant what your company name is, what your logo is, what your tagline is, I don’t care how clear all of that spells out what you do. The reality of it is, people kind of gloss over that. And they tend to kind of have a blind eye to what they have to be hit in the face. This is what we do. big and bold, don’t have a whole bunch of words. And that kind of goes back to you know, get right to the point, be blunt, leave nothing to the imagination, you have the rest of your website to be really cool and creative, and highly encourage it animation, love animation on sites, not a whole lot of jerky videos moving around. But animation is cool stuff moving. But man, just be direct on what you do. So if you want to grow your business, start with your website, take a quick look at it. Can you see everything you need to see on the website? Is it clear navigation? If it’s not, you got an issue? What about the homepage? What does that look like? You know, can you clearly understand when you land what you do, and then as you work your way down? Is there anything there about your capabilities, even if it’s just a two or three sentences with an image that gives people that feel because about half the folks out there when they land on a site for the first time they navigate across the top, you know, they clicked on all the little things to see what’s there, the other half of the folks out there tend to scroll down. So a good rule of thumb is you want those to kind of be a mirror image of each other, you know, whatever you’ve got going across the top you kind of want to have coming down. What we hear very often is I don’t like going on websites and everything on home pages. So I don’t want my homepage really long. I don’t want a whole lot of content. There are so many tips and tricks to how to keep your homepage relatively condensed without losing that core information. So now, we’re thinking, Okay, so now you’re just trying to give me like a sell job that you want your company to come in and you want to like build our website? No, absolutely not. In fact, we’ve seen great success, doing it ourselves, or having our clients do it. If they have a framework, if they thoroughly understand what their website should look like, oftentimes, at least iteratively, that first step, you can make some of these corrections yourself and you absolutely should, whether it’s you yourself, or maybe it’s whoever works on your website for you. But very clear, you don’t have to start with this behemoth project, where it’s a complete overhaul. Think of it in your own personal life, let’s say you know, you know for sure that you got to paint the basement, you should probably do something about the flooring down there because you know, it’s kind of rough in some spots. Like it probably just stays like that forever because it’s the basement people don’t see it all the time and they got a million other priorities. But you know, imagine if instead of just aiming to do the entire basement do a complete Reno. You know what if you started with something as straightforward as you know what this month we’re gonna paint literally this corner of the basement we’re gonna move everything away. We’re gonna prep it, clean it and paint it and be done. And next month we’ll get to another section of it and the flooring you know, we’ll have that mad dash if you’re like me right before the holidays and then try to Yeah, but exactly Thanksgiving a Christmas. But I mean in a nutshell, take a look at your website, you know, start with that that’s that’s that’s really the foundation to a successful growth strategy.
Damon Pistulka 53:43
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Nancy is bed so incredible having you talked today and and I just I can’t stress enough. How cool is talking to you with your passion, passion for helping young people get into manufacturing. Now we spend a lot of time on people listening out there. You know, if you are in manufacturing, and if you are thinking about being in manufacturing, or know people that are in manufacturing, make sure that you’re helping spread this word. And just thanks so much for doing that, Nancy. And then you know, as as we rounded this, this out, you know, some of the things create that careers page to help people understand your culture and, and to customers that go to your career page. They want to see what’s happening in your company, just like dislike that their decision makers are getting younger as well. They want to see what your company stands for. And that makes a difference. And then as you said, your website can’t be 10 years old, and it needs to it needs to really reflect as clearly and simply what you’re doing as a starting point.
So thanks so much for being here today. Nancy,
Damon Pistulka 54:55
it’s been awesome talking to you.
Nancy O’Leary 54:57
Thanks, Damon. I know we I think we ran two minutes long On so apologies.
Damon Pistulka 55:01
We’re fine we’re fine. So I just wanted to say thanks so much everyone for stopping by today. I knew was I Sorry, sorry. I’m not gonna get it right I’m not gonna. And vows btw done I don’t know but Thanks for Thanks for dropping a comment today. And thanks everyone for listening that didn’t put a comment in. And again, Nancy, where’s a good place to get a hold of you or custom direct or what’s the best way to get a hold of you before we jump off?
Nancy O’Leary 55:35
Oh gosh. It’s pretty simple. O’Leary O’Leary at Custom direct.com is my email address. You can find me, Dan Mansi Alarie custom direct and very good. Thank you so much, everybody. Thanks, David. All right.
Damon Pistulka 55:49
Hang out just for more Nancy and we’ll talk for a minute and wrap up. Okay. Thanks, everyone. We’ll be back again next week.