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Gabriel Interview Rick About The Beginnings Of Elijah Tooling

Gabriel Interview Rick About The Beginnings Of Elijah Tooling

December 26, 2019


Hey guys, it’s Rick from Elijah Tooling.

Nah, not going to take two minutes, probably going to be longer than that. 

We're just going, Gabriel and I are gonna do a little bit of discussion here.

So, this morning I'm going through my closet looking for shirts. 

And, I particularly like this one; It's a broadcloth shirt. 

But, one thing about it, that brings back memories: is this logo. 

Our Invert-A-Bolt™ logo. 

And it makes me kind of go back in time to the beginnings, you know.

I kind of like wearing it because it reminds me that there was a beginning. 

You know when you gain some level of success or you know people know you or your products or something.

It's like sometimes we forget where we came from.

So, I just wanted to have a Gabriel, Gabriel free gratis whatever, the opportunity to ask me any questions he wanted.

But, I just wanted to show you something before we get into that discussion; so here's our fastener and this is our first fastener.

And as you can see it's a little tiny thing, it doesn't actually work the same way as the fasteners now. 

So one of the things that happened over time, was that we started recognizing, “Hey there's a problem with that. There's something that has to be corrected”. 

And so, we kind of went through this sort of process of improving these products.

This particular product worked pretty good and we still have people like ‘today’ that would probably buy this. 

But, what would happen; is this little ring in the top would wear out pretty fast.

That's the thing that made it unique, because the ring drives the stud up but we had to correct that.

But before we corrected it, we created a bigger one that had a had a bigger stick out in it and so this particular fastener right

here was super popular for a long long time.

And then, we improve that by getting rid of that little drive ring in the top. 

Now we had it in the bottom, that it held it in the bottom, no longer holding it in the top. 

Finally, you get to the one that we're currently using; again you can see it has a different bottom on, its pressed together. 

This one we had the clip in here that held it all together.

And then finally, I shouldn't say finally, because we're still trying to improve our products and make them the very best for everybody's sake.

But this one, of course, is the newest one; you can see the backs a little bit different and it has the

seal on the top.

So, anyway I just thought there's that progression of how these fasteners sort of went, and they are specifically  Invert-A-Bolt™.

They're the  Invert-A-Bolt™ product.

So, over time we changed, and we started broadening our market, and that's when we changed our name to Elijah Tooling.

And so, I’ll leave it right there.

Gabriel, I'm gonna buck up.

I'm ready for you buddy, I'm ready.

What do you got for me?

Gabriel: Well my first question, is what was it like?

Rick: by the way who is this?

I forgot to say who this is; this is one of my boys.

This is my youngest of five boys, and I actually got another one behind the camera.

So, I got boys all over the place.

Anyway.

Alright, Gabriel, lay it on me.

Gabriel: So, first of all; what was Elijah Tooling like at the beginning? 

Rick: At the beginning, at the very beginning, when we're talking about back in 1990, we weren't Elijah Tooling.

Gabriel: Right

Rick: We were Nissi Industrial Technologies.

And our company at that time when we created the company to start with, me and my two brothers started a programming company actually; we produced NC programs, and we thought we were pretty good at it.

But, it was a struggle for us. 

We were chronically in debt, and even though we grew our revenues and our expertise.

Eventually, we were like, ”man we got to find something else!” and that's where product making came into our history.

 You might be surprised, you probably would be surprised to know that we had another product, before these fasteners.  

Did you know that?

Gabriel:  No actually. 

Rick: There you go. 

Well we did, we had a piece of software that we made, and interestingly enough it cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop.

Gabriel: Wow 

Rick: Guess how many licenses we sold?

Gabriel: Handful.

Rick: [Laughs] One.

So, our first product attempt did not go well.

Gabriel:  No, not at all.

Rick: But thankfully we're still here.

We survived all of those things.

Gabriel: Yeah.

So, we transitioned from a software-based company to a product-based company.

So, who was at that time your main customer?

Rick: So, when we concepted this thing it wasn't a new completely new idea, but what we had done is improved it significantly, and made it a product that you could buy off-the-shelf and screwed in from the front of the plate.

And so, my dad, your grandfather.

Gabriel: Right.

Rick: Would do sales for us.

And, some people out there in Wichita area, remember Roger Miller coming by their shops and talking with them.

Well one of the first people he went to go see, was Raytheon. 

What's now you know it's not Raytheon anymore, but and it's Beechcraft or I don't even know it's been bought and sold so many times now, I think it's Textron now. 

Gabriel: Ok.

Rick: But he took this over to them, and they were like, “Oh ,we were thinking of doing that!”

And so, we're like,” Well, we already did it. So, how about buying some?”.

Gabriel: yeah, yeah.

Rick: And so, the old Raytheon, Beechcraft that customer, became one of our best initial customers.

And then, we also, as a programming company; we supported a company in Wellington Kansas.

Gabriel:  Ok.

Rick: Precision Machine in Wellington.

Bill Meredith,  and his group. 

And of course, it's been bought and sold, and actually went bankrupt at one point

But, it's still there now. 

As I believe GKN. 

Gabriel: Ok.

Rick:  And so, but they were thankfully and between those two companies they were readily adopters of this new technology.

And honestly, with precision, they just knew us well enough. 

There were like, “I guess we'll try it out.” that kind of thing.

Gabriel: Yeah.

Rick: But, it was enough, it was enough.

And, I would say too, to you guys that were there at that time: We appreciate your feedback.

Because of the feedback that we get from our product introductions, is so important and so valuable.

I think nowadays people are reluctant to provide honest critical feedback, but  I'm not gonna say we enjoy it, but when we get it things change.

We want to have the very best products you can buy, and so we do whatever we can to make that happen.

Gabriel: Right, absolutely.

So, starting a company, especially from scratch is a really big deal, and we've touched on a little bit what it was like, but what was the reasoning behind you starting Elijah telling? What was the “why”?

Rick: I like that question; because at the time the “why” was probably not very well developed.

 it's probably a lot like a lot of people who start a business they go, “Oh man, I make a lot of money by doing business for myself.”

Gabriel: Yeah 

Rick: And, that and I would say that that's possible. If indeed you can survive the ten years, that it takes you

to get to a point that people want to do business with you. 

And accept whatever it is you're making or selling or so.

That was the “Why” at the time and I would encourage anybody that's getting into business, to have a bigger “Why" than that.

If it's just about you know, “I really want to take $50 more home per week.” you know that may not be a great

reason to put yourself through all this.

Gabriel: Right.

Rick: So, the “Why” for this.

For the fastener was that as an NC programming company, we spent a great deal of time - it was outsourced programming. 

So, we spent a great deal of time telling the people that we sold the program to; What to do with it! And part of that, back in those days was changing clamps.

Every time you’d changed a clamp, you had to have a piece of paper that showed the clamp changing and so there were pages and pages of Instructions.

As to what had to happen to get through the process, and by using the fastener we eliminated the clamps. 

And there was like, “ haa what a relief, whew. That makes life easy.” and so, that's something we brought into the future.

That's still something that our products do and that's a pretty good “Why”.

Gabriel: Absolutely.

Rick: Over time, of course, our “Why” gotten bigger.

We've got into modular fixturing and that saves so much time. 

So much bottom-line money.

It's a great “Why” and we're really happy to be at this, you know.

Fill that niche in this market.

Gabriel: Right.

Well, so beyond the “Why”, which is unbelievably important when you're starting a company-

Rick: You know, it I'll just clarify it's really important all the way through. 

Gabriel: Okay.

Rick: We call that vision.

Gabriel: Right 

Rick: And so, if you don't have a vision, you got to have vision for your employees, you got a vision for your

customers, you got that vision for yourself.

Where are you going?

Why are you there?

What are you doing?

Gabriel: Yeah.

Rick: So, this is a really big deal, and I think people don't realize how big a deal the “Why” or the “Vision statement” or you know.

So, often nowadays it's like well everybody's got to have a mission and a

Vision.

Gabriel: Yeah.

Rick: And we don't realize that it's really what drives us is gonna in large part determine our success.

Gabriel: Right.

So, you had that drive, that reasoning, at the beginning which probably wasn't the greatest, but you know it's shifted over time, but for people out there that are starting their own company. 

It's incredible big deal, incredibly stressful, it's you run into all kinds of problems, and I know that you did. 

But-

Rick: Who? Me?

Gabriel: Problems is kind of the trademark of a fresh company. So, in - 

Rick: Not a fresh company. All continuous.

You know, the problems just get bigger.

Gabriel: Exactly, but it's critical at the beginning, right?

Rick: Yes, absolutely. 

Gabriel: It's do-or-die. 

So, in the beginning, and even now, what keeps you from burning out? 

Because I know for a lot of people going into that, that's a big deal.

You want to give up, you want to just emotionally, physically, financially let go of that company.

Rick: Yeah that's a great question, and I mean there's so many factors that play into that, But, there is a scriptural biblical tenant, which is you do things with somebody else.

Gabriel: Okay, never do it alone.

Rick: It's like three strands can't be broken, something like that.

So of course, starting the business with my brothers helped.

We had emotional support, but having a good wife, you know.

The support system around you, is really important.

You can't fight the battle on all fronts. 

So if you've got a lot of personal problems, you're probably gonna have a hard time fighting that battle in the company.

Gabriel: Right.

Rick: So, you got to pick your battles.

Of course, just physically trying to stay as fit as you can, trying to have some balance. 

This is so important.

Gabriel: it's hard to be sick in a company. 

Rick: Well, exactly and thank you for bringing that up.

Our physical well-being is really the core of being able to continue day after day, after day, after day.

So, if you're not getting enough sleep, you're not eating right, you're not exercising you're not using your mind, not

necessarily in the area of the company but in other ways, just allowing it to rest in other ways.

This plays such a big role. 

Gabriel: Yeah.

Rick: And in keeping your sanity?

I think that's what you're really talking about. 

How do I stay sane?

Why didn't you just - because that's what the idea of quitting, is actually kind of a spiraling down. 

It's like getting married, nobody gets married thinking, “Oh this is gonna be horrible.” why would you get married?

Same thing with a company.

And also, hiring employees and then so many things in life.

It's like we go in with those rose-colored glasses. Then what do we do?

You know because eventually, reality hits.

Gabriel: It's got to be more than a dream.

Rick: You've got to be doing the things, have habits, daily habits, that will help you, and then, of course, have those people around you.

Another thing I wanted to mention: We brought in a Board of Advisors, we had some people they were just friends, but they were friends in business, that understood business.

Gabriel: Right, so every step of the way you had somebody to help prop you up, you didn't do it alone

You didn't try to take the full weight of the company by yourself.

Rick: Did not do it alone, and I would encourage anybody that's in this battle-fight whatever you want to

call it, you got to have people around you and honestly it would help a lot if you had some business owners.

If you had somebody that's been there before, walked with you or can walk with you.

Really valuable.

Gabriel: Absolutely, for sure. 

Rick: One other thing I will say is and it's an internal thing.

And that is; you have to come to the place where you simply will not quit.

It does not matter what's happening, you've decided that you're gonna go down in flames.

I mean, I'm serious.

You will, you're going to continue pushing ahead regardless of what happens, and that particular spirit is required it's called perseverance, right.

Gabriel:  Right.

Rick: And so, without that so many companies just they can't make it.

They don't make it, but a lot of times if they did just hung in there long enough, they'd still be here today. 

That's our testimony - we we went through some really low times, but we never quit.

And I by the way I had people you know, I went to people and said, “I'm gonna quit” yeah and they're like, “oh no you're not! You stay in there! You have put in so much time and effort to this, you do not quit!”. 

So you need, sometimes you need somebody just kind of go, “puhsssh.  Hey what are you thinking?”.

Gabriel: Yeah.

So, those people that surrounded you were crucial, and not that, that mentality of never giving up, never let him go.

That's good.

So, we've touched a little bit on how Elijah Tooling started, and some of the past products, and the past shirts some of the past mentalities.

But where do you think it's going in the future?

What is the vision ahead?

Rick: So, we've kind of found our niche in the world, we feel like.

And our competitors, the people that are out there sell and work-holding and this kind of stuff.

They're great, I mean there's some really great products out there, no doubt about it.

But, we feel like our niche is in the flat plate arena, where the stuff is in the plate. 

Nobody else really focuses on that, and I'm grateful. 

That’s us.

That's our little place in the world.

And of course, the stuff that's in the plate then comes up out of the plate, like to hold our vices and things like tha.t.

So, that's what we feel like is our future.

We're gonna continue hitting that flat plate kind of market.

Where you need no obstructions to your machining.

Gabriel: Yeah that's a big deal.

Rick: You can benefit from not having all that stuff sticking up out of your plate.

Gabriel: Right, yeah.

Well, thank you for letting me pick your brain a little bit today.

Rick: Have you thought about counseling? 

Gabriel: I don't think I'm old enough for that.

Rick: Or a podcast maybe?

Gabriel: No, maybe we'll see about that.

Rick:  Well guys thank you for spending time with me and Gabriel today.

I will mention to you that the Invert-A-Bolt™ website is going to be going through some changes.

We're going to be focusing it, specifically on the fastening products.

And then the Elijah Tooling website will be for the broader things, so that's coming. It's in the future too

Gabriel:  It's exciting.

Rick: Yeah it is.

We just want to haFbig deal

ve these websites kind of truly reflect what they're about.

Guys, we appreciate you.

I know you hung in.

If you are still with me right now, you hung in there.

So, thank you so much.

We appreciate you so much.

See you later.


-Rick Miller

Elijah Tooling



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