Idea Mensch interviews entrepreneurs, makers and doers. With over 4,000 views a day, below is their latest interview.
“Read carefully and read quality because you only have so much time…You are what you eat and so is your mind in what you read.”
Kylan Hastreiter is the Vice President, Marketing and Development of Hastreiter Industries. Kylan joined UTM Inc. (now Hastreiter Industries) in 2016 after receiving his Bachelor’s in Business Administration, with an emphasis in International Business, from the University of Wisconsin Platteville. He helped lead his family business through rapid updating, growth and innovation; with a recent recognition as one of Modern Machine Shop Magazine’s 2018 Top Shops.
Since the beginning of 2016, the company has grown from 1 employee with two part time owners up to 12 personnel, while maintaining 0% employee turnover for 18 years. Hastreiter Industries produces machined parts for Aerospace, Defense, Energy and other industries. The company offers advanced manufacturing services such as 5 axis milling, 4 axis turning along with engineering and metrology services.
Hastreiter Industries has a strong social vision, donating 50% of their net profit while working to launch a nonprofit organization called Shiloh Bound. The idea is that they can partner a business and a nonprofit together synergistically to help transform lives and communities. There are a lot of great organizations which mentor individuals from challenged backgrounds, but when the people leave the four walls of many nonprofits where do they go? Most have no economic means to get out of their old environment, as they have little education, few skills and maybe even a criminal record. While the nonprofit invests in people personally, Hastreiter Industries can train them in a valuable trade skill, thereby empowering them to stand on their own both personally and economically. The business is growing so that they can reach this vision.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The company was originally called UTM Inc. It was founded in 1988 by Ken and Sondra Hastreiter. Hastreiter Industries as we know it really started in 2016. It’s almost been like a startup company as we’ve grown from 1 employee to 12 people since then. Besides growth and entering new markets, we’ve been working on starting a nonprofit organization. Between those factors, we felt UTM (an acronym for Universal Tooling and Machining, in which the full name hasn’t been used in over 25 years) was no longer fitting for who we were. In July of 2018, we changed our company name to Hastreiter Industries. Our company has a multifaceted vision in both our social cause and technology.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Hastreiter Industry is a small company, so people tend to wear a lot of hats. I handle marketing, HR, strategy, metrology (quality control) in the machine shop and our recent push for a local Makerspace. Every day is something different, whether I’m jumping from category to category or spending the whole day programming our CMM (coordinate measuring machine) for verifying parts we manufacture. Productivity is twofold; attitude and priority. Some tasks have higher value than others – though any task’s efficiency is determined by how I approach it and how hard I work on it (more about this in point 13). Anything actively out on the shop floor tends to get priority, because that is where the real action is, where money is actually made. Whether it is HR or marketing, my perspective is that office work is meant to support what we do out in the shop.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas are nothing without a way to implement and then further “grow” them, which means having a team. An idea is just a thought, the second step is turning it into a blue print with the details hashed out. The final steps are building the blue print (implementation) and then growing the idea to the fullest potential. For each of those elements different strengths are usually required. The key is surrounding yourself with people that contribute to the idea, and work to fulfill it where you are weak. Sometimes as entrepreneurs we feel like we have to go it alone or control the whole process. However, allowing others to “buy in” potentially moves an average employee to someone who takes ownership of the company’s vision – thereby desiring to see ideas come to life as much as you do. Why is that valuable? The University of California found that motivated employees were three times more creative and it takes creativity to bring ideas to life. Find the right people that grasp your vision and hold on to them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Workforce development and educational access initiatives are exciting. After too many people earned four-year degrees (and realized there weren’t jobs in their field), there’s been a significant shortage of machinists, 13,000 in central Wisconsin alone (Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development). The trend is starting to reverse as people are starting to realize new opportunities; walk into an Aerospace & Defense machine shop and you will be amazed. People with two-year degrees are sitting at computers programming quarter or half million-dollar machines. Businesses, government and educational institutions are starting to come together to collectively figure out how to showcase the high paying, intellectual positions that students had no idea existed. In our city of Marshfield, multiple institutions are coming together to determine how we can get a Makerspace that would allow students to make personal projects, robots or drone parts using additive (3D printers) and subtractive (machining) manufacturing; as well as even coding/programing the robots or drones. This, in turn, will give students not just access to advanced technology, but also exposure to exciting, high paying careers. Our company has been working together with local public education for a solution.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My faith is pretty important to me. How I am doing in that realm affects my attitude, which in turn affects my productivity. Getting up and reading/praying in the morning gets my mind and heart focused on what matters. As a company we donate 50% of our profit and are working on launching a nonprofit organization to mentor and educate people from challenged backgrounds (www.shilohbound.org). Keeping my eyes on the mission and vision keeps the work meaningful. I find that when work becomes meaningless productivity goes out the window. What’s the point of growing our company just for the sake of growth? We exist to make a difference and I find that motivating.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My first thought is, “work harder” because I slacked off in school, and I recognize that I could have learned more. I could slide by without doing any work and get a B in an advanced placement class. However, I realize that the root cause was actually passion, and a subsequent lack of thirst for knowledge (on top of personal discipline). In college, after switching majors, I finally found a field that excited me, so I genuinely studied for the first time. My advice to my past self would then be, “you were fine”. Why? Because I’m happy with where I ended up and the truth is that finding your passion can happen when you’re 10 years old or when you’re 60. Who am I to fiddle with timing? It simply leads me to advise the me of today, “renew or keep your passion”.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
People love to give lip service to certain things they believe, but then when reality occurs their actions speak differently. I find that one case is people think they are truly pragmatic about their own beliefs – whether it is personal or what they believe about their target market. People automate decision making; we see the world and make many (but not all) choices based on assumptions and not necessarily original thinking. Psychologically this makes sense, studies have been done on how our brain has only so much decision-making power in a day. However, if you want to be an original thinker you must challenge yourself on how you approach problems or topics. I recently spoke at Mid-State Technical College on how “Challenge the Process” is an important part of leadership. Good leaders make good decisions from their own solid view point. Great leaders can internalize multiple perspectives and come up with a great (often times unique) solution.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Everyone tells you to read and read often. I’ll tell you to read carefully and read quality because you only have so much time. First, pay attention to what you actually read, digest it. Secondly, not everything you read should be digested. You are what you eat and so is your mind in what you read. Be picky to find good content because you only have so much time, but also read things from different perspectives or opposite beliefs. Sound contradicting? Maybe, but that’s why you read carefully with a purpose.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
People love to answer these questions with just an action they took, but strategy is more than that. An action is only the tactics, which is the outcome of a strategy. Setting out for growth back in 2016, we set the goal of diversifying our customer base – as most of our work came from the energy industry. First, I had to understand our business and the requirements of current and new markets. We were a quality producer with 99% of jobs delivered on time (industry average is 90%). We also had a history of being able to produce complex parts. While many local machine shops were in the dairy industry, our biggest customer was a Fortune 500 in the energy industry with stringent requirements. Researching various markets, we decided the Aerospace market fit us best based on our company qualities. The barriers that stood in our way was a lack of diversified technology and image/branding. To tackle this, first, we threw our resources into 5 axis CNC milling, a more advanced type of manufacturing than we had previously. Second, if you can do something, but nobody knows, it does you no good. Before 2016, we didn’t even have a website. Between aggressively pursuing new technology and creating a new, modern marketing effort to establish legitimacy, we grew 75% in 2017. Once we embarked on this quest and were faithful with the work we were given, other industries and types of work simply landed on our door step such as Defense or machining castings.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We bought an expensive piece of equipment, which turned out to be very frustrating. Between software glitches and speediness of tech support, we had a case of buyer’s remorse. It was the end of the year and we had money left over, so for tax purposes we rushed our research and decision-making process to make a purchase happen on a type of equipment that was totally new for us.
I kept in contact with the company and eventually got ahold of the right people. Though it took several months, we’ve started to see change in the level of support and worked out a mutual solution.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Finding good gluten free products is not easy. Now imagine having another allergy on top of that, like egg or soy. Now imagine you’re also not living in a major metropolis, where instead grocery store offerings are very limited. People like this often must supplement their grocery list from certified, good quality bakeries. I know people in Wisconsin that drive two and a half hours from Madison just to show up to one of two certified gluten free bakeries in the state (the one in Marshfield).
The idea is take a central location like Marshfield and provide a subscription service for the geography of Wisconsin (or pick another state, just do some research). People with allergies can get a box of weekly or bi-weekly dietary needs covered without driving crazy distances. Plus, they start to feel more normal too since it is actually tasty food; I’ve had local gluten free product that I thought was wheat. Spee-Dee Delivery (local Midwest competitor to UPS) ships every box from Marshfield to anywhere in Wisconsin next day without paying next day costs. Also, you’re producing baked goods in bulk since customers are buying full boxes ahead of time and thus you can coordinate all of your customers orders versus lots of customers unpredictably ordering. Finally, combined with the shipping, we now have a way to inexpensively ship high margin food quickly. By the way, last I heard the bakery here (in Marshfield) was up for sale. They are currently doing business to business sales. https://www.facebook.com/JJsBakeryMarshfield/
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently, it was on Google Adwords and it was actually $25. This also happens to be 100% of all advertising money I have spent in two years. The rest of my budget had only been spent on non-advertising marketing and I figured it was time to give ppc (pay per click) our first shot. I learned how Adwords worked and planned to ease into it very slowly. I started a very limited, highly focused campaign and landed a single customer after a month. In terms of life time value of someone sub-contracting manufacturing, that is a very high marketing ROI – which allows us to invest extra, for the sake of our customers, in technology and in our people. I turned off the campaign, because enough companies have also been finding us organically.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Productivity essentially is, “how hard does something work” and, “how efficient or effective is it while you work hard?” Together this turns into, “how far does something go with the resources it has been given?” I’ve absolutely loved using Squarespace to build our website (www.hastreiter.industries). I could have spent several thousand on hiring someone to create it. However, by building it myself I did it cheaper (make each dollar work harder) while maintaining full control over our message (increases efficiency/effectiveness of the website). With full control I can be more nimble, make adjustments, add pages and overall coordinate the site, which makes the rest of my marketing efforts a lot easier. Note, I happen to have the mind and skill to figure it out. I do not have the mind and skill to figure out graphic design so I hired that out. This comes back to knowing yourself and thus what you should and shouldn’t tackle.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Here’s a quote first: “A business only has two functions: marketing and innovation” – Peter Drucker. Many entrepreneurs are the chief innovators because they had an idea and worked to make it into a deliverable product. Though, nobody cares if you have the greatest product in the world if they don’t know it exists. While it might be a cliché book recommendation, read Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Levinson. I find it unique because if you’ve never had a marketing class in your life you are given the fundamentals you need, while if you have a business degree it builds upon your education (without being overly redundant) with ideas, details and examples. Whether it is this book or another more tailored to your industry, get your hands on a book that will help you to sell your products or services if you haven’t already.
What is your favorite quote?
To be completely honest, I don’t have a favorite quote. I have plenty that I like, but none that have reached such “elite” status yet. I’m sure I will down the road. A quote I do like is, “an entrepreneur is a juxtaposition of being unpredictable and predictable.” I just made it up after thinking about another quote, “the point of writing is to be unpredictable” which I believe I have been. The thing is though, if you’re not unpredictable you have brought nothing new to market, you are old news. Yet without the element of predictability to your customers you are not reliable. An entrepreneur and their business must be both.
Be thorough. Think pragmatically. Challenge yourself on how you approach topics, try to look at your ideas from counter perspectives.
Money doesn’t guarantee successful marketing (see point 12, 13, 14)
People make up the core of your success – whether they are a customer or employee. Entrepreneurship can sometimes feel lonely, however you are likely not alone. Success comes when you find ways to get both groups of people to buy into your vision.
Learn, learn, learn across many areas. Business is complex and incredibly multidisciplinary. Work to become the best at what you do.
Be honest. Be yourself. Don’t be who you’re not based on other’s expectations, though sometimes you have to put a smile on. (see point 5, 6 and 15)