In this episode of AMP we are joined on the phone from Crystal Lake, Illinois by a man who is no stranger to manufacturing. Brian Cowell has spent his career helping bring innovative products to the marketplace for brands including Nike, Disney, Amazon, and Keurig, just to name a few. In our discussion Brian shares some ideas on internationalization, some of the pitfalls of producing and launching new products, and some of his experience in his past projects.

Brian is now the founder of Manufacturing Millionaires, a consulting company aimed at helping small manufacturers reach the seven figure incomes they desire. From custom consulting relationships to his Masterminds group where his clients are a part of a roundtable discussion with other manufacturers facing similar challenges.

Brian tells us what makes the best products sick and how even good products can fail. He also talks about something called the Ben Franklin Tool. Please enjoy this episode and as always, if you know someone we should interview for the show, please let us know!

Continue reading “Brian Cowell of Manufacturing Millionaires” »

sudenga-iWith the election right around the corner it seems on point to mention that the company in this episode has survived 23 US Presidencies. From their humble beginnings as a blacksmithing shop in George, IA in the 1880’s to a thriving manufacturing company of over 250 employees, Sudenga has seen a lot. In this interview I sit down with Vice President of Sudenga, Chuck Sjogren and he shares some of his favorite stories from his many years with the company.

To Chuck and the small community of George, IA working at Sudenga is a way of life. Many of sudenga-iithe employees I had the pleasure of meeting have been there for 20 or more years. That doesn’t mean they don’t have young folks and cutting edge innovation, not by a long shot. They are doing some incredible things there and acquiring Dur-A-Lift has opened up even more opportunity for them.



sudenga-iiiYou don’t spend over 125 years in the manufacturing business without being asked to make some pretty crazy things. Chuck shares many stories including that of the time when they were asked to make a machine to move bat crap!


Please take a moment to rate us on iTunes and to visit our sponsors!



Continue reading “This Company Has Seen 23 US Presidents” »

This is our first international episode for AMP! We get a chance to speak with Ben Kolp, Partner at Orca Social in England. They help B2B manufacturing companies create and execute digital marketing strategies. If a namufacturing company wishes to expand to other countries they help them navigate the language and cultural barriers that often deter companies from tying to expand outside of their home country.

Ben spent years at Oracle which provided him the foundation for his role at Orca. In addition to his partnership there, Ben also founded a co-working space called the Living Room and enjoys the entrepreneurship atmosphere.

Ben speaks about the importance of listening first, understanding the culture of the the countries you are looking to establish your brand in, and then executing a plan instead of just simply jumping in blindly.

Continue reading “International Marketing for Manufacturers With Orca Social” »

In this episode of AMP we find out how a potato is partially responsible for what is now  35+ year old metal company located in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Like many of our interviews we get to know our guest, Kevin Halberts and a little bit about his background prior to starting Kryton Engineered Metals. Kevin shares some funny stories and we have some moments where I just sit back and listen. One thing I could tell from he few hours that I got to spend with Kevin is that he cares very deeply about his work and his employees.

Kryton Engineered Metals was started with 3 guys and $500 bucks each. Now located in the industrial park in Cedar Falls the company has a global business with around 80 employees. Kevin serves as the CEO but he’s not afraid to get out on the shop floor and spin metal with the workers.

Some highlights of our conversation are around the 10 minute mark he shares a poem that’s stuck with him. Shortly after that he tells the story of how the flip of a coin landed him the CEO role at the company. Around the 21 minute mark Kevin shares something he calls “My Painted Vision”, a vision for his company that was disseminated out to his employees. These stories and so much more in this episode of AMP!

Continue reading “The Coin Flip That Made A CEO” »

In this episode of AMP I get the chance to sit down with the president of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), Rob Denson. You may be wondering what DMACC or Rob have to do with Advanced Manufacturing but I can tell you that the conversation is fantastic! DMACC and other community colleges around the country are focusing major dollars and efforts on the area of Advanced Manufacturing. From customizing training programs within an existing company to recruiting talented folks to the trades.

The sheer size of DMACC’s student body is stunning and it’s no wonder why with all the amazing programs they offer. Rob Denson has been the president of the college since 2003 and you won’t find someone more committed. His winding road that led to the community college world is fascinating and for being a former trial lawyer he’s got a great sense of humor.

DMACC continues to be a leader when it comes to partnering with manufacturing businesses and their model is being repeated throughout the country. There are many takeaways for company owners looking to grow their workforce or improve the one they already have and there are also a lot of ideas for folks who are looking for a better career or for learning a trade.

Continue reading “Community Colleges Are Exploding Into Advanced Manufacturing” »

In this episode of AMP we talk with the 4th generation owner of Johnson Machine Works, Jeff Johnson. Located in Chariton, IA, JMW has a rich history that includes triumph and tribulation, success and failure, and many challenges overcome. Stories include a fire in the 1945, WWII efforts, how the company changed hands, and Open Book Management strategy. Owner, Jeff Johnson is passionate about his life’s work and you get a strong sense of pride in the way he talks about the people employed at JMW. Jeff’s faith has been a driving force for him and we take some time going down that path.

Johnson Machine Works was founded in 1907 in a town that is currently home to about 4,500 residents. Employing around 100 people JMW is certainly a staple of Chariton, IA.

How does a company that’s over 100 years old keep on reinventing itself and keep up with a changing global economy? How did a high school senior end up taking over the company after a family tragedy? Find out the answers to these questions and more on this episode of AMP!

Continue reading “Lessons From A Century Old Steel Company” »

This is a very unique episode of AMP. We are usually interviewing longtime manufacturing businesses or folks that have been in the industry for decades, but not in this episode. For the first time we are interviewing a startup manufacturing company and one that makes an incredible, life-saving product. RMA Armament in Centerville, IA has the strongest body armor on the planet! From a deer hunt with Iowa governor Terry Branstad to a private lunch with Texas governor Rick Perry, founder Blake Waldrop shares some of his incredible adventures while getting his startup off the ground.

We talk about his background in the military and police and also how he ended up in the city Mayor’s living room getting married before heading off to war. Blake opens up about his cancer and how that nearly caused him to miss making the most important connection in his venture thus far.

How did a former military and policeman raise the 1 million dollars he needed to make his dream a reality? You don’t want to miss the story in this episode!

Continue reading “Episode 7 – Incredible Stories From A Startup Manufacturer” »

In this episode of AMP we talk with the founder of America’s Job Honor Awards, Kyle Horn. After working for years at Manpower, Kyle set out on a mission to recognize some of the very folks that he was helping find jobs. The Job Honor Awards recognize those who have overcome significant challenges in their lives to go on a become a productive member of the workforce. These challenges include folks who’ve been incarcerated, people with disabilities, language barriers, and more.

We spend a bit of time talking about the history of Americas Job Honor Awards, some of the stories that Kyle encounters, and how companies can find/hire people who have overcome challenges and setbacks in their lives. These employees, according to Kyle’s research, are some of the most loyal and dependable workers when a company is willing to overlook the mistakes of the past and instead look at their trajectory.

America’s Job Honor Awards began in Iowa 3 years ago and is now in Wisconsin as well. Kyle shares his plan for the next 5 years and his vision of the awards of someday being held in every state.

Continue reading “Episode 6 – Finding Amazing Employees In Uncommon Places” »

IMG_8118This episode is something special. I was honored to be asked by a former guest of the show, Albert Marasco, to participate as a counselor for his inaugural manufacturing camp, called Base Camp. They has selected 13 students to participate via an online application and they rented in age from 11 to 13 years old. During the week the campers learned how to start a business, design a product, and then manufacture that product that would be customized for a local small business. In this episode I ask them about their views of manufacturing and their experience with the camp. Here’s a little background on what how the camp went…

CampersThe week began with students hearing from 5 local business owners about the features they would like in a custom bicycle. The business owners also silently wrote down a bid they were willing to pay if they were chosen by the students to be the one to receive the custom bicycle. The campers then broke down the features requested and determined how long it would take to build each of the custom bicycles. In the end they chose to do a custom bike for a local brewery, Reclaimed Rails Brewing Company.
Camp1Before getting hands on the kids had to do some planning around the process of designing and building the custom bicycle. They toured the facility so they could get an idea of the resources. They were also provided with many “reclaimed parts” from old projects and scrap in order to match the customer’s brand and belief in up-cycling.


IMG_8261As the week wend on the kids were able to learn a variety of new skills and use a wide array of tools. They learned how to weld, plasma cut, bend, CAD design, laser cut, drill, mill, powder coat, and more.

Throughout the week there were several other local business owners lined up to come in and serve as mentors for the kids. There were several Q&A sessions but they also worked hands on with the kids as they worked on their project.



IMG_8252In addition to the mentors, several other folks came in and spoke with the kids on topics such as servant leadership, product liability, and entrepreneurship. They group also engaged in discussion on building confidence, a personal philosophy on life, and ways other than money to define a successful life.



IMG_8305The week finished with a massive hog roast celebration with nearly a hundred folks in attendance. The bicycle was unveiled to the crowd that included the business owners from the beginning of the week. The students took a few minuted explaining what had been done to create the bicycle and the challenges they had to overcome throughout the week. Every single camper said they wanted to come back and participate in the future.
Continue reading “Episode 5 – A Week With Kids At A Manufacturing Summer Camp” »

In this episode of AMP we talk with the owner of Kreg Tool, Mr. Todd Sommerfeld. The story of Kreg Tool is incredible. With the advice of an uncle this global tool manufacturer was born back in the 80’s. Todd’s journey began by helping his father with the business in his back yard when he was just a boy but at the age of 15 a trip to St. Louis cemented his passion for the company and the industry. Like most young men, distractions like cars, girls, and college pulled him away from the family business.

Todd received a degree in Accounting and after just 7 months in public accounting his father asked him to join him back at Kreg Tool. When Todd made the move he was just 23 years old and Kreg Tool employed just 12 people. Todd’s approach to leadership led him down the path of wearing nearly every hat in the company before he took the reigns. He credits his abilities to his faith in Christ, thirst for knowledge through reading, and peer groups such as the CEO roundtable that he joined early in his career.


Today, Kreg Tool has roughly 200 employees and ships products around the globe. You’ll find their tools in stores like Home Depot and Lowes. Their recognizably blue tools are the standard for most woodworkers and the raving fans that use their products can be found by the hundreds of thousands on many different social media sites.

Continue reading “Episode 4 – How A Major Tool Manufacturer Created Raving Fans” »