Connect with Todd Carroll:
Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. I'm here today with Todd Carroll. Todd is the Vice President of sales at B&B Manufacturing, serving the United States and Canada. B&B is a manufacturer of timing pulleys, synchronous belts, and power transmission products. Todd, welcome to the show.
Todd Carroll: Good morning, Lisa. Thanks for having me.
Lisa Ryan: Absolutely! Todd, please share a bit about your background and what led you to manufacturing and with B&B.
Todd Carroll: Great. I've was born and raised around this industry. I grew up in Indiana and went to Purdue University. When I graduated, my dad had an independent distributorship here in Indianapolis. I was able to get familiar with the different manufacturers that he represented. As I graduated from Purdue, I got into manufacturing with one of his tier-one manufacturers. My journey started there down in Dallas, Texas, Arlington, Texas.
It then took me to Portland, Oregon, and then Minnesota - all with that one manufacturer. I like to see how things are made from the raw form into finished form and where it goes in the marketplace. Manufacturing is unique from a pair of power transmission standpoints because there's not anything you didn't get up this morning that manufacturing and our products didn't have some role in making, whether it's making toothpaste or coffee or whatever.
I've also spent a little time on the distribution side with some different distributors, national distributors in the United States. But I've always found my way back to manufacturing. It's my comfort zone and my happy place. I like to connect people with products, solve problems, and come up with solutions for manufacturers for the customer.
Lisa Ryan: One of the things that we talked about in our initial conversation is that we want to change the conversation to bring more people into manufacturing and in today's competitive workplace where everybody's fighting for the same people. You must create the type of culture that people want to work for, and there are just so many things that you were doing there at B&B to make that happen.
Was this something that was kind of always part of your DNA, as far as building those relationships, or was there something with B&B that you just decided to start changing things and connecting with employees? What are some of the things you're doing and some of the thoughts behind it?
Todd Carroll: If you talk to anybody who knows me, they will tell you that I'm in sales and I like to talk a lot, so I connect pretty well with people. At B&B, one of the nice things is that we've got a privately owned company. Bob Hamilton is our owner and CEO. I've known him for probably about 20 years. So when we talked about my coming on board to set up the sales and marketing aspects of B&B, I started to get to know Bob well as the leadership team that he's put into place. I began to understand what kind of culture he was creating there.
In today's workplace, you're fighting for talent, and it's hard to find it. How do you keep it? How do you bring it in the door? One of the things that we do is a standard benefits package. You've got your 401 k's contributions, but we also have profit sharing. If we hit a specific goal for the company, then the company kicks in a bit more percentage for its overall profit sharing side. We've also got a gym onsite, and Bob pays the employees to work out. If you have a certain group within the organization - let's say that because we're a manufacturer, we've got primaries out in the shop. We've got secondaries. We've got shipping, receiving, packing, etc. If your team does all the workouts during the month and there's 100% participation, you get to take off a Friday, about two o'clock, and you get paid the rest of the day for it.
Bob also pays you to meet the goal throughout the month. One of the nice things about being me is that we're a 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility on 52 acres. We've got walking trails; we've got ponds; the ponds are stocked with fish, so you can take a break at 11 o'clock in the day and do your walk around the pond. It's about a mile - that counts. Then, if you want to come back on the weekends and go fishing, you're able to do that as well. It's a nice opportunity to take a break from the day-to-day grind.
Let's face it today, and in the current environment, it's tough to please customers. You've got supply chain issues, manufacturing delays, and different things like that. So you need a little brain break from the overall grind of things.
Lisa Ryan: Please share a bit about the gym. I know you said that it's 30 minutes every other day. What kind of equipment do you have in the gym? People may think that they have to spend all this money and put together all of this. What have you seen from the employees taking advantage of that as far as health, happiness, and retention?
Todd Carroll: Before COVID, everybody was pretty much utilizing the gym. We've got treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and an entire matt area that you can do stretches. You can do different videos on the TV screen as well. It's pretty nice. If you want to take a quick shower before you head back to work, you can do that as well. It's a fully operational, functional gym. From my perspective, it's not just a couple of pieces of equipment. You could probably get a good 15 to 20 people in there one time if it were full. But throughout people's different shifts, different breaks, and stuff like that, it doesn't get that heavily utilized at one time.
Many people don't use the gym; they come out, and they do the walks around. It's mainly in the summertime, so it works out well.
Lisa Ryan: Okay. Was that always part of B&B, or is that something you put in since you've been there?
Todd Carroll: Well, this is our fourth building. We started in the garage of Bob's parents' house. We moved out from the garage to another facility. We were over on Genesis Drive, and then we moved into the current building. Our existing structure was built in 2014/2015. The gym was part of it at that time. Bob likes to have healthy employees. He wants to make sure that they're healthy and not only physically but mentally. From an insurance standpoint, we have a local facility called WellPort that will come over and give flu shots free of charge. So if our employees have minor things laceration on their hand or need to get immunizations, they're able to go to that local facility free of charge.
Those are just some of the nice things that are in place. When we have a milestone, say that we record sales, booking, or whatnot, we do an employee lunch. Everybody gets to partake in that. We also have an event where throughout the quarter, if an employee goes above and beyond the call of duty, somebody can recognize it. Leadership says okay and goes to HR and says, XYZ employee did something well. I want to extend them a ticket. They'll get these tickets throughout the month. Then they'll spin the wheel. Every ticket equals a spin on the wheel. They can get a $50 gift card to a local restaurant or Home Depot or a $100 gift card. It depends on what slots are on that wheel. Those are nice little things to pick up, so when they get home, and they want to take the family out to grab a bite to eat or take the significant other or spouse out for a date night, those are just nice simple little gestures to say thanks for the efforts of taking care of the customers.
Lisa Ryan: right when it sounds that you are making a significant investment in your people. People who may be listening to this or are thinking, yeah, well that's a lot of money, I don't have that. But if those same people were to take a pen to paper and add up the cost of turnover, add up the cost of people ghosting you at lunch, or not showing up for interviews, or you're getting bad reviews on glassdoor.com.
Any of these things that keep people away from the shop - the investment that you are making in your people is you're probably saving 10s of thousands of dollars in retention costs because people aren't leaving.
Todd Carroll: You're right. Where we are located up Laporte, other manufacturers are all competing for the talent. Rick Talbert is our President, and he's a metrics guy. He likes to track those different types of things about turnover and many other metrics as well, so when you say investing in your people, they are our number one asset. If we take care of our people, our people are going to take care of our customers. That's something Bob has always been pretty adamant about - making sure that everybody's got a voice everybody and can give input.
We're still kind of in the pandemic, and I'm checking in with employees to see how they're doing. I want to find out if everything is going well, what's stressing them out, those types of things. It's nice to see that people are not just a number. People matter at B&B, and we try to take care of them so that they're there for a long time. We've got a lot of folks that have a lot of longevity for many years.
Lisa Ryan: Right. We also talked about what you do over there, which takes just a little bit of time costs, no money at all. You're starting your meetings off on a positive focus. How did that get started? What do people share in the discussions when you're starting?
Todd Carroll: Sure, this is something that I started at B&B because an old boss of mine would do it. The premise behind it is that you get so wrapped up working with your co-workers, and you know them at work. Whenever I have a sales meeting, or I'm leading the charge of whatever discussion we're having, I pause and say, all right, we're going to have a positive focus. Everybody understands it now. It's kind of funny because I'll say all right, we're going to start the positive focus. If somebody sitting to the left or me or somebody said to the right, they're like go that way because they don't want to go first. It entails that anybody can just talk about something positive going on in their life - personally or professionally. It allows us to hear the personal side of life. The positive focus is to understand that person for more than, "Oh hey, I go to Angel for all our quotes and pricing availabilities. It's now Angel's time – she's got a family, they went to Michigan this weekend. This is the first time I've been able to get away for a while. Somebody else may share that their kid won the local baseball tournament. It's nice to see the co-workers as people who have families.
Sometimes we have issues, and we get to share that as well. So you'll get some that sprinkling of some professional positive focuses, but again it's just kind of like a cleansing of the palette. It's not a complete business focus. It's just like all right. We're all people. We all got families, and we're all trying to do our job so that we can provide for our families. We also want to move the business forward in a positive professional way. It's been nice, and everybody understands. We're leading the charge or having meetings. We typically start that way, and I think others are picking up on it we well. The first time we did it, it was a little rough. It was challenging because nobody was used to it. It's easier now.
As you go through the day, lots of things happen to folks. If you can't sit there and figure out the positive side of something, you've got to change your mindset from constantly looking at the negative. We're trying to focus on that positive side because it keeps the spirits are up, and it just cleanses the palette for the meeting. You start fresh.
Lisa Ryan: When you're looking at people holistically instead of just workers in the plant, you're looking at people with families and lives, which leads to more compassion, which leads to more empathy, and better relationships. Gallup polls have found that people who have a best friend at work are more engaged than those that don't. Giving people the opportunity to share the victories in their lives and build those connections with people allows those relationships to happen. People get to know each other. It's also more challenging for them to leave because they know they're going to go to another manufacturing plant where they're not going to know the people where they're just an employee ID number.
So, taking into that consideration and spending just the first couple minutes kicking off with that positive focus, I'm sure your employees now look forward to that.
Todd Carroll: We're very fortunate to have a very active owner in the business, and before COVID, we would have Easter egg hunts for the families. All the employees bring their families and kids, and the Hamilton's are great folks. They sit at home, and they bundle up all the Easter bags with eggs and different things. The eggs would have candy and some money or coupons or gift cards. We're fortunate to have the Hamilton family leading the ship. They're all involved, from Bob to Helena and the kids. They're good people.
Lisa Ryan: It's essential to have that type of connection again with the employees. As the leadership team or the ownership level of a company, you are seen differently by your employees. When Bob is walking through the plant, and he calls an employee by name or asks him about his wife or kids or what's going on in his life, there's a different level of connection. It's unfortunate, but in most cases, they are not going to have that kind of relationship at many other facilities that either they had worked in the past or potentially would work for in the future.
Todd Carroll: Let's call a spade a spade. We're pretty good at many things that we do, but we still have a lot of things we need to work on. We're not perfect, by all means, but what's nice is if we've got an issue, we typically put it on the table and have a conversation about it. I'll call that the here's the adult conversation where you don't make it personal, and you don't get your emotions involved with it. If you do that, you can pretty much say anything to anybody at any time. You get through the issues, and some of them are tough conversations, but again it's about a group of team members coming together to move the business forward. If you don't have issues, you're living in La-la land.
In this time, you've got to work together with the supply chain issues, labor issues, all those types of things. Things can get a little stressful at times, and you gotta remember, "Hey, we're all here for the same boat. We're all in the same storm." We're all working, trying to figure out how to get out of that. In time, we lean on each other quite a bit. All of us bring a little bit different skill sets and experiences to the table. We recognize who carries one, and we lean on them if there's an issue that pertains to what they're good at.
Lisa Ryan: Your number one focus is on your employees, but you also take good care of your customers with things like customer appreciation week. There are lots of ways that you go out of your way to connect with your customers. Please share a bit about what you're doing along those lines.
Todd Carroll: In this marketplace, the power transmission industry has a lot of manufacturers. We're growing. We're coming up higher on the radar screen for most folks, but we're not your traditional recognized tier one manufacturer. The name brand guys are out there, so we have to work harder from the standpoint of getting a job done faster - following up on that quote, making sure that we try to anticipate what the customer needs. We ask a lot of questions.
I'll give you an example. Last night, we had a group that we do a lot of business with. They send orders through the web, and I noticed that they were ordering a couple of pulleys and belts, but they didn't match. I called and asked if they were running these together. They were, and I let them know that they were using the wrong belt. We were drop-shipping it to a customer, looking out for the customer from the standpoint of making sure that all the parts go together.
When you get into synchronous, it can get a little tricky at times but ask them the questions on a drive system - what's your horsepower? What's your rpm? Why are you doing this?
We had another customer that called us up for a belt probably four months ago that a competitor makes. The belt had a three-month lead time on it. I asked him for the drive information, and we redesigned it into something on the shelf. Their customer was down, and we shipped it out the same day. They got it the next day, and they were up and running. They were pretty pleased with it.
Lisa Ryan: So, in these difficult times, what are some of the things right now that are working?
Todd Carroll: We've hired a customer advocate manager that we haven't had this role before. This person, Marissa, is looking into the backlog, looking at orders, and trying to be proactive about looking at okay this customer we got an order in. The delivery date is coming up, and we're not going to make that. So we're trying to invest in being proactive and picking up the phone and calling the customer and saying hey, "This order you had it in here for X amount of days or weeks, I should say, and it's not going to be on time. We're going to be in need another two weeks. I want to give you a heads up."
We're trying to do with that way because we didn't use to do it that way. Sometimes we would get a call, and the customer would say, "where's my stuff?" And we're like, "Let me check on that." You never want the customer to call you when you're late.
Lisa Ryan: When it's evident that's not news that they want to hear, however, the fact that you are being proactive and letting them know builds a certain level of trust that now they know that you are on top of things that you are paying attention to them and it's not something that fell through the cracks. With everything that we're going through right now with the supply chain, the customers are probably more used to not getting calls and guessing where their product is versus when they're working with B&B, they know what the status is.
Todd Carroll: We're getting more proactive today. Are we 100% bulletproof? No. We've got a long way to go. But it's something that we've put in place. We've got different ways of quoting customers from the standpoint of a quick turnaround. We're a big believer that the company that receives the quote back first usually wins. We carry extensive inventories as well. Being a salesman at heart, Bob knows that you can't sell from an empty wagon, so we've got a significant amount of inventory. We have over $10 million of finished goods inventory in stock that we can ship. It's come down a bit, but that's what's carried us during the pandemic. So we can continue to increase that stock level and keep it at that level.
In a company of our site, you won't see that amount of stock on the shelf from other people. We're pretty fortunate to have the leader of the company with that mindset. A lot of our business is made from the manufacturing side. People know us for custom-making things. We're trying to do what we've always done - custom-made orders. We're also trying to let people know that we've got that MRO stock on hand as well.
Lisa Ryan: Okay. What are some of the main things that are keeping you up at night?
Todd Carroll: I don't know who could have forecasted 2021. I mean, if you look at the pandemic and 2020, we were pretty fortunate. We were flat, where a lot of our competitors were down double digits. When you look at where we're at today, with the supply chain and labor issues and the influx of volume, we're significantly up on the booking standpoint and significantly upon the invoicing perspective. I don't think anybody could have predicted where we are today.
What keeps us up is how long does this continue? What's the STOP look like? Is it a cliff? I don't think anybody's got a real good idea of what that is? How do we continue to get people in? If we could find 20 people today, we'd hire them. We've got those manufacturing positions, open and office positions, so we're struggling from that standpoint. How to get the people in, and what's the forecast look like for 2022? How does that blend into our business to continue to move it forward in a positive way?
I don't know if my crystal balls are any better than your crystal ball.
Lisa Ryan: They're all cloudy right now.
Todd Carroll: Fortunately, we've been doing some things from a relationship side with customers, and it gets it's paid off. We've focused on being transparent to customers as, hey, can you expedite this or hey, I need this? It's like, hey, we'll try, or hey, that's not going to go today. Oh, by the way, it's going to be another six weeks. So we have that tough conversation, and we don't sugarcoat it. It's tough to hear, but over time, when this clears out and we get back to whatever the new normal looks like, I hope that it goes a long way. I hope they remember that B&B was straightforward with me, and then when they gave me the reschedule, it hit. Or they may say, hey, they pulled a rabbit out of their hands on this one for me. I appreciate that.
We're hoping to move forward, but again we've got to work harder than our competition because we're not quite as well known. We're getting better, we're just haven't gotten there yet, but we're on the right path.
Lisa Ryan: From a networking standpoint, what would you like to learn from other manufacturers, and what insights would you be willing to share if people wanted to connect with you?
Todd Carroll: We just got back from the industry Convention last week. It was the PTDA - the Power Transmission Distributors Association. It typically has about 900 folks there, but it was about a third of that this year. As far as networking with folks, what I like to hear is how are they doing? How are you benchmarking against how others are doing and understanding what they are looking to do moving forward? What are some of the new things that they pivoted on during this current environment? And what's been helpful to them?
We've done some different things throughout the business, but how are they doing? You think you're doing well, and then you talk to somebody like what we were doing all right, but those guys are killing it, and they killed it last year, too. I walked away from a meeting, where they were flat last year or a little bit down or whatnot, but there was a couple of manufacturers that were up 40% last year, and they're up another 40% this year. Wow, that's pretty good.
Things like that - because when I hear that, I'm like, how did you do that? What was driving that? Understanding those key performance indicators, KPIs as to what's allowing their business to move like that. Maybe it's something we can bring back and utilize within B&B.
Lisa Ryan: And if people wanted to get a hold of you, what would be the best way for them to do that?
Todd Carroll: They can hit me up on LinkedIn. I'm an open networker there as well. Most people have my cell phone and stuff like that, so whatever is easiest. I'm happy to give you my cell phone and let them call me. I like to connect and network with folks. I think it's a real key. You and I met at the PTRA, and from there, this is how this came about. I follow you now, and I think you follow me, so it's intertwined in the network. The key is not who you know. It's who knows you.
Lisa Ryan: Exactly. Todd, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. Thanks so much for joining me.
Todd Carroll: Lisa, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to working with you in the future.
Lisa Ryan: I'm Lisa Ryan, and this is the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. We'll see you next time.