Brian way started his entrepreneurial journey in the trades at just 15 years old. His early ventures focused on carpentry, but soon he found himself specilizing in foam...specfically the templates used to organize tools, cut from CNC machines. From creating a lane for himself in carpentry to going bankrupt and the rebound that brought him to where he is today, don't miss this exciting dive into how Brian found immense success in a very niche category
Eric Girouard 0:00
Hey guys, this is Eric and you're listening to bucket talk powered by BRUNT. We've all seen the foamer inserts that live inside toolboxes but we probably never thought about who's the guy behind the scenes that made that happen. This week, we talked to Brian way owner of Kaizen inserts to hear how he found success in a super niche foam inserts category and completely dominates the category. This is bucket top, a weekly podcast where people who work in the trades and construction that aren't just trying to survive, but have the ambition and desire to thrive. The opportunity to trades in construction is absolutely ridiculous right now. So if you're hungry, it's time to eat. We discuss what it takes to rise from the bottom to the top with people who are well on their way and roll up their sleeves every single day. Hey guys, Eric here with Brian way of Kaizen inserts. Brian, first and foremost, just wanted to thank you for taking time out of not only your busy day, but your busiest time of year to sit down and talk with the folks here at bucket doc. Yeah, thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to it. Awesome, awesome. So before we get into the Empire, known as Kaizen inserts that I'm that, that I'm newly getting introduced to, let's get to know a little bit about the early days of Brian, as far back as you're comfortable going doesn't doesn't matter how but where'd you grow up? What were you into? What made kind of the early days of who Brian is today, and then we'll get into Kaizen later
Brian Way 1:27
on? Well, that's definitely a loaded question. So I could start early. I haven't gone far from home. I grew up basically, I grew up got married live in the next town over and work in another town adjacent to that all within a five mile radius. I've never gone anywhere. So it's you know, I'm a homebody at heart for sure. You know, at heart I am probably a lot of people would say I'm a gearhead. I've always been into cars trucks are sees as a kid building them running them flying on whatever it is. My father was in the in the trades. He was a painting contractor. And he did other other stuff as well. But the business grown up in the 80s you know, everybody, everything was booming in the 80s. So I was fortunate to kind of live as a as a teenager through that. And, of course, all the hair bands as well, you know, so there's, there's my music. But growing up, you know, as a gearhead with a father with my father as a contractor. I was always into fixing things, taking things apart, put them back together. I'll fast forward a bit to high school. I went to a trade High School for carpentry. So yeah, I took three. So though it's Eli, Whitney tech,
Eric Girouard 2:53
so on. So you left middle school and went straight into a carpentry High School.
Brian Way 2:58
So at an early age. So yeah, that would be ninth grade freshmen. Yeah. So I started carpentry in ninth grade. So before that I was brought up in a Christian school. So I didn't go through. I was in the general general education, public education until I think second grade. And then I was in a Christian school until eighth grade. And then from there, I went into a Technical High School, which was a lot of fun. And currently still connected with a lot of the guys in my carpentry shop. You know, we've been connected over the years and made really good business relationships with them as well. So from there, I I actually went I was starting my business at about 18 years old and I had the way Yeah, I literally started my business when I actually I started working when I bought my first I bought my first truck when I was 15. And so at 16 The day I turned 16 and I had already had it all set up with tools. I was already going out doing jobs. I was doing carpentry work for the houses that my father was painting. I actually was fortunate enough to gain an instant database of clients because his clients became my clients. So it definitely helped boost my business back back in the day.
Eric Girouard 4:20
And so he was painting and you were then doing the carpentry right either that
Brian Way 4:25
right? And where we grew up in his type of work, there was a lot of old homes Victorian homes, just very large homes, you know, 100 year old houses that were very ornate and always needed restoration work and they're there you know, it was it was a great area to grow up in and then things kind of went Some people think it went a little weird for me because when I graduated high school I actually went to another technical school after that for one year for electrical because electrical always interested me i i've always from day one had an interest in electronics and building things, so I actually went in for electrical and I worked for an electrician for a short amount of time. While I was still building my carpentry business and woodworking business. I sort of lost interest within about a two year time span and my business was starting to grow. So I continued my carpentry. And from there, it quickly evolved into doing cabinet making custom woodworking, and at about I want to say around 2122 maybe it wasn't that young, maybe 24 years old, I bought my first business condo, I had a 4000 square foot business condo, and I put my woodworking shop in it. So I did that for until about 2006, I moved one time, in 2000. In three I moved to a larger facility, we had almost, we had about 10,000 square feet at the end, maybe a dozen or so employees. This took me to about 2006 and what a lot of people don't know what happened in my life is right before the economy tanked. I took I tanked as well. So my my business went bankrupt. I had a lot of companies at that time that were failing on paying me and I fell victim to, to that as well. So that was, that was a very difficult time in my life. My I was in my married life at home and with everything it just didn't doesn't make things easy. Right? So you know at all from there, I had a very short amount of time I call it my transition time where someone came in and sort of took over my shop I was I sold all the assets to him. So I could start so I could pay things off. And then within a year, I knew that was short lived within a year, I then moved to approaching a lot of my previous competitors in the woodworking industry and said, Hey, I'm building I'm building a truck I want I'm going to be an installer, I've got a I've got a small crew, we want to start installing millwork. So for the next 10 years, we installed custom millwork and built stuff on site, I had a mobile shop, we had two box trucks over a period of time. The second one was really dialed in. It's it's also a plug myself, it's all over YouTube, if you if Yeah, if you in YouTube, if you type in lean truck, as in lean manufacturing, it'll be the first thing that comes up every time. So it's a it's a really it's a really cool, it was a really cool piece of my history, it really helped me dial in and this is where the Kaizen insert is going to start coming. It helped me dial in with how I had to go from working in a 10,000 square foot shop to a 14 foot box truck and I basically had to put all the necessities of of the business and what I was doing and building into that truck into that mobile shop so
Eric Girouard 8:06
in doing that question in that truck What year was was it cabinets was it was it everything kind of anything and everything or was there a focus
Brian Way 8:16
on the truck was was basically geared for commercial millwork installation, residential and commercial but so I could The truck was made so I could backup to a loading dock at a commercial space park it there and and fabricate out of it there was chop saw setup table saw drill press planer jet all the necessities in there, there was power air, like you could literally work in there with two people the way it was set up. Wow. So and so in doing that, I really had to learn how to dial things in and make the most use of my space, therefore, that that's gonna, you know, slowly what I what I started doing with foam. So I'm gonna have to back up a bit in in 2002 I I open up kind of a second business, an online business. That's called BP way calm, it's still active. And I started reselling, you know, my basically my favorite products, the things that we would use the things that I knew and understood. And those those are the items that
Eric Girouard 9:21
you carry to your retail retailer for products that you've used. You're a subject matter expert in you could talk to in service and all that stuff. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Brian Way 9:31
So one of my first vendors was a company called fast cap. And they back then it wasn't it wasn't as easy as it is now to reach out to companies and people and try to just sell their product things operated quite differently. There was no there's no Instagram there was no Facebook. Maybe there was Facebook. Yeah, there was Facebook, maybe what I'm not sure Oh,
Eric Girouard 9:56
yeah. No clonal fairly Yeah, no,
Brian Way 9:58
yeah. So this Did operate differently. So in doing that I was selling fastcap for a while. And fastcap is a big part of my life, or the shall I say the owner, Paul Akers has had a huge influence on my life, I would actually consider him one of my business mentors. And, and probably the most important one, I could reach out to them at any time and have a question for him. And he would always be there Johnny on the spot and respond to me, he's been a big part of my life. So he, he's invented a lot of products. And he takes I'm not sure if you know the concept of fastcap. They take a lot of ideas from other contractors, and they call them dBc, designed by cabinet maker, and they'll sell the product, and then they give the person who designed it or invented it a commission on that. And I have product with fastcap as well. With some my thoughts. Yeah. So hit one of his products was Kaizen foam, the layered foam to help you become more organized, you caught it, you peel it out, you pull out the layers and put your phone, put your tools in there. And that came out after I built my truck, but very shortly after, so I was able to quickly integrate it and start and start really dialing things in and organizing things out. So and in doing that the only box system toolbox system that was really available back then was tan O's, or most people would notice Festool Oh, yep. So all of my tantos boxes were fitted out with foam, all the tools, all my rolling carts that we would unlatch from the truck and wheel into the into the job sites, everything was fitted out with foam dialed in, everyone that saw the stuff always had something to say there, you know, it was just they were enamored with the way we functioned in work. So I figured you know what, this seems to interest people I I'm going to just start cutting out some of these things, I'm going to make a template out of plywood, because I was already selling products online. So I figured I'm gonna make a template, apply what I'm gonna put on the foam, I'm going to just start popping these things out with a router and making all these inserts out of the fastcap. foam. So I started doing that one at a time. And, you know, we do sheets at a time put them on the website they'd sell they were doing really well on eBay for a while. And it got to the point where I couldn't really keep up with doing it by hand. So I I purchased my first CNC to put in my garage at the time because I didn't have a shop. So I have a two floor detached garage is 24 by 30 on the first level 24 by 24 second level. So my first level was full. So my I started my first CNC was in the second floor of my garage. So yeah, so we just kind of I learned, I learned all the software started drawing things and popping out the simple. The simple foam inserts,
Eric Girouard 12:58
CNC for those who of us who aren't in the world of CNC, which you're deep in, you program it to basically cut out the pattern, right? And then it could just run itself, you just have to swap in the material. Right and correct. It does the work and you can go do something else or whatever. Yeah,
Brian Way 13:14
exactly, exactly. So this is basically we're gonna call this a side job to my real job, because I'm still installing millwork full time doing going on site stuff.
Eric Girouard 13:26
So you're working like half days, it sounds like most days, right? Yeah, yeah,
Brian Way 13:29
half depends on how you how you come. So yeah, I mean, we'd work an A, or whatever, eight or nine hour day of my normal job, and then I'd come home. And I'd spend four hours, three, four hours in the back, and that would grow over time. And it got to the point where I had one of one of the guys that was working for me, I brought him in, I'm like, you know, do you have an interest in helping me with this, you know, so it ended up being more than helping me he ended up doing it for me in my garage while I was still out installing, so I'm still kind of still kind of run in that business. And I think it was a very important, it's a very important step because the it's hard to dive into a new business when when you're not so sure at it, you know, you, you there's there was a lot of uncertainty. I mean, I was it wasn't really a business. I was just making a product and it was selling Okay, you know, so and I kept and I had enough work to keep someone going for four hours a day, five hours, five hours a day, and that grew over time. But you know, I was working. I didn't have any overhead. I had basically a job and a half and it was it you know it was going quite well. So I'll fast forward a little bit. A good a good friend of mine. He's actually a pretty well known youtuber Izzy swan. He said to me one day, and he knew how busy I was. He knew I was working two jobs. We You know, we're good friends, we've been bounce business ideas off each other all the time. And one day he said to me, he says, you know, Brian, he says, I think you're standing in front of a freight train, and you need to get out of its way. And I'm gonna I left out some, some excellent words. But, but, and that that's stuck with me for a while. And I think maybe about six months into, into that, I realized, you know what, that things are getting out of control now, because I bought a second CNC machine, six months after the first or eight months after the first and then within another six months, I bought a third CNC now I have three C and C's and a to put into 24 foot by 24 foot as your that's your side hustle. And this is what Yeah, and this is my side hustle. Exactly. So I had so then at that point, I had one full time guy, eight hours a day cutting on my phone. And, and he actually brought in is what he said, I can't keep up, you know, my wife now my wife needs work. She's at work, can I can I bring her in, I would kind of I kind of hemmed and hawed and I was like, I don't know another person. I don't know if that's necessary. But so you know, I brought her in, and she started working some time as well. And so now I have two people working in three and three CNC is running the five computers in a 24 by 24 foot space, so and the phone was stored off site, I had a container, I was using my box truck go back and forth. It wasn't lean. And I was practicing and preaching lean, but I, I couldn't, I couldn't possibly function that way. So I took his advice, I got out of the way the freight train, I went and rented 1000 square foot spot and moved into there, I purchased another five by 12 CNC, in addition to these three others, and then six months later, I needed another 1000 square feet. And then six months later, I needed more. So now I have 6000 square feet. Wow. And and now I'm it now when six months into this place, and it's full, so I don't know what what's going on with with foam and other products, the the foam kind of lead into other products, we have other tools and in really, really cool affiliate products that we make for different brands and toolboxes. And I have other manufacturers that work for me and supply stuff as well. It's not it's not just us. We're manufacturing.
Eric Girouard 17:33
And so hold on, we're about to get into Kaizen as a whole. But before we do, when did that, when did you? Are you still running the know in business? Are you shut that you know, you know, I switch over?
Brian Way 17:45
Yeah, I'm sorry, I shut that down when I rented the first 1000 square foot space, miles from my house. So I decided to pull the plug on that. And not only did I pull the plug on that I sold my truck, I shot the truck that kind of put me on the map as far as you know, just people recognizing who we are as a company and I was in a bunch of different magazines. And even to this day, I have people ask so do you still have the truck? Can I come and see the truck? I'm like, No, I sold the truck and they get more upset than I do about it. I don't even miss it anymore.
Eric Girouard 18:22
No, that's an important lesson though. Because there's obviously there's a guy you know, a famous YouTuber, but a gentleman I've got to meet a few times but a guy by the name of Gary Vaynerchuk. And he's one of the things that sticks with me Is he says that you the minute you get romantic is the minute you got a business and so absolutely you hanging on to that truck or that legacy business was would have been nice and sweet. But like you would have missed out on what Kaizen is today,
Brian Way 18:49
right? Just right. So Exactly. And you know it. And my son always makes a makes a joke. He's like, I don't get it, that it's just foam, you know, what is going on? So he's working for me now as well. Yeah, so you know, you got to bring in all the family too. But yeah, it's it really opened up the doors. Now we are by no means the first company to put things into foam. I mean, that's been, you know, company. The Air Force has been doing that for years, you know, but were there there is, you know, yeah, there's the hustle. But I also believe that there's sometimes a little bit of luck involved and timing is always of the essence. And by luck, I mean luck and timing. So right, because we were manufacturing, we're making the foam inserts for the tantos and no one else had toolboxes out. I was right on the edge of seeing all these other brands start creating these European style toolbox systems for you know, jobsite portability, everything from the wall to Milwaukee to Bosch is unreal. Big over here. But because I was I was right there with I was already set up for doing all this the moment that those things were available. I was creating foam for them or, or accessories or products. Yeah. And then I was making some adaptable to fit some others and and so when I say luck, I mean luck and timing. I mean, I was doing it at the exact right time. I didn't go into it with all these all these toolbox companies and systems that were already out there. They came into play after I already started. So yeah, I think that that was that's a big part of why why we rank high in the search engines. Why? Why it looks like sometimes that, you know, we're one of the only companies and or why we started this trend. I'd like to think we did start a trend. But I can't take credit for that.
Eric Girouard 20:55
The saying goes, the harder the harder you work the luckier luckier you get. Yeah, like, sounds like you worked pretty hard. Yeah,
Brian Way 21:03
we've worked pretty hard. And, you know, and because there's not, there wasn't a lot of other companies out there doing what we're doing it unintentionally we unintentionally became ranked fairly high in the search engines. And, you know, one thing led to the next and I will actually attribute Instagram as a huge part of how it grew my business. Yeah. Because I i without Instagram, I'm not sure we would have been able to tap it to anyone anywhere. I mean it. I was reluctant to even join Instagram when when some friends suggested it. And, and I did. And then I started understanding slowly the power of social media and how the most powerful business platform out there available right now is free. And it's Instagram, if you know it, and I don't think it'll work with anything. I think you you have to have a product that people need that people want that works with that solves a problem that stops a struggle. Right now we're kind of geared towards everything that we're doing, I want the products that we're selling to be struggle stopping products. So we're going to be changing some things up in the business and and really like it really pulling that pulling that out the struggle stopping products. So yeah, I mean it. And then other companies who may have been, you don't realize that some of these large corporations, they, you know, they're on Instagram, too, they, they might be a CEO of a big company. But let's face it, they probably have an Instagram account that they may or may use a little bit. And a lot of these big companies, when when they started hiring us or calling us for work, I would ask them, I said, well, How'd you find me? And it was one of two ways there's I saw it on Instagram, or, well, I googled phone for such and such. And you know, you're the top 10 positions. So I figured there's no one else that did it. So it was always something like that.
Eric Girouard 23:06
So you were so less than yours. You were early on search google search, because you were one of the few that were there. Right. And then naturally, you rose to the top and then you were early again on Instagram. Early, you know where it looked like in both places? You were the king king of the castle. Right? There were other people there.
Brian Way 23:27
Oh, yeah. And and again, we are not the only the only game in town. There's other people that do this, but I'm not sure there's other people that are doing exactly what we're doing. I mean, that are making foam inserts for all these different brands and toolboxes that everybody use and, and fastcap has my back as well. I mean, we're not just friends and business partners, you know it, you know, he's gonna he's not going to allow another company to come in and use their phone and do the same thing and wouldn't benefit anybody you know. So yeah, yeah. And this phone is very, it's proprietary to them. So you have an exclusive, essentially an exclusive license to the fastcap. Phone. No, I would definitely not say that because he sells the foam by the sheet. So if you go on fastcap.com or any fastcap dealer, and you can buy two by four sheets out of it, so you could buy it, buy it buy the sheet and you can get it less expensive. But because we're pre cutting it to fit all the toolbox and
Eric Girouard 24:30
Scott both doing the work you're putting Yeah,
Brian Way 24:33
exactly. So the value added is the time and labor that it saves. And there is the argument that Yeah, you could buy a piece of foam. And you know, likely do it for less money yourself and spend the time it's never going to be as accurate. I will say that it'll help because we're at very accurately cut on a CNC and you're not going to save yourself any time if you're out of work and you have nothing to do I buy Oh, I actually recommend it because you know, it's, it's, it's kind of Zen like Kaizen Yeah, go ahead, save yourself the money, do it, do it yourself, cut it out yourself, the most frustrating part of cutting foam is cutting the box out, the tools are a lot more, they're a lot more fun to do to lay out to trace to cut them out to, you know that that's it's actually a whole lot more fun. Because tracing out toolboxes and measuring, it's just very time consuming. So we stop the struggle and we did you know, we did it for you I
Eric Girouard 25:32
love it reminds me of the the the image I see which is, you know, let the three lemons or 10 cents apiece, then then you do the work. And then the glass eliminates like two bucks. And it's like, a lot of people are like, Oh, just buy the lemons. But it's like, do you want to mash up those lemons? Do you want to mix them up? Do you want to put them the ice? Or do you just want to pay the two bucks and get that nice glass? You know, glass of lemonade? Yeah, for me, I just want the nice glass of lemonade, because I'm gonna screw that foam up left and right. Absolutely, absolutely.
Brian Way 26:02
And you know, you'd be or you maybe wouldn't be surprised, the I do get a fair amount of people reaching out to me, you know, kind of requesting that I send them my design file that, you know, they just want to make it for them, they have a CNC, they just want to make it for themselves. You know, that's great. But if you have a CNC and you have the CAD software, then just measure it and draw it yourself. If if it was that easy, then you know, got it. And then sometimes they get mad at me, I just say we don't do that we don't release it. It's just you know, if you have the machine and you have the way of doing it, then measure it yourself and do it. You know, it's so right. And I think we have the right to claim our claim our designs for ourselves. But Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, you know, in where we're at Currently, we have some really good clients. I mean, we're doing larger projects, we're now we're selling to working with other companies out of the country, we're supplying toolbox, full toolbox systems, with phone with tools, shipping them all over the United States to you know, you know, our clients, and it doesn't just end with foam. Now we have our my Iser our open up to much bigger events in this in this tool industry, for sure, God
Eric Girouard 27:24
Yeah, so so if you can't, and you might not be able to share more, but you have the direct to consumer customer like me, who's like, you know, I'm hopefully gonna hang out with you in the future. And I need to pack out system myself. And, you know, I got a couple houses I got to take care of, but I'm not like, day in day out. You have other you have a b2b business. So you're reset. You're selling your stuff to someone else who's reselling that,
Brian Way 27:50
is that right? Yes, yeah, we sell wholesale as well, Paul
Eric Girouard 27:52
Brian Way 27:53
we have a pretty a great business partner that sells our product. In Canada, it's Kaizen cases and inserts, and they have a storefront in Saskatchewan, but they also sell online. So it's selling it, we do ship to Canada, but you know, shipping, shipping in the US, in our own states, it's a nightmare. They ship the shipping is a complete nightmare. We don't pad our shipping prices. Sometimes the website does funny things and comes out with crazy prices. And people think I'm intentionally padding it, we will give the money back. I don't always see what's going on. So if someone reaches out to me and says, Hey, I think there's an issue I will buy, by all means look at and say yep, you're absolutely right, it overcharged you $20 I'm gonna give you your money back. Because, you know, the way our business the way these shipping systems work, and you sell online, so you understand this too. When when you're buying multiple products, and you have multiple variants, sometimes the system is adding variants, or thinks that more variants are there than what's really there and therefore the shipping gets over calculated. And everything is dimensional weight as well. Even though it doesn't weigh anything that's that's the biggest thing I hear. Oh, it doesn't weigh anything. How expensive could it be? Well, they're charging us dimensional way they don't care that it weighs nothing. They're charging us as if it weighs a lot you know, like cinder blocks we're shipping cinder blocks that's what they charge so yeah, it we're fighting shipping is our biggest battle in hurdle. By far like it's the it's my nemesis. Very difficult to deal with. You know,
Eric Girouard 29:35
okay so you have the you have it you shipped to consumers you have this this wholesale business. And then as you look at the business what's what is the big driver for it? Is it the is it you're making? A you know, is the driver for it? Is it is a really spread out or is it like hey, you know you have tool partner or two that is driving a ton of the business and everything else in the fringe or you have a big contract or a big relationship. Like, what's the you know? And you don't yell names, obviously. But what's the big? You know? Yeah, well, yes, a big customer to one person or is it really your spread across the board?
Brian Way 30:11
Yes to everything, I mean, we are really spread across the board. We have multiple vendors, multiple wholesalers that buy our product and resell it. We do, we do a very large amount of, of daily sales, weekly sales online to our, to our end users. But but also our biggest clients are military based or aeronautical based are, you know, they're there, they're all things like that in the air, air industry of sorts, we have, we also have a whole line of customers that buy the same item from us on a regular basis. So once a month, or every two months, someone might order 100 things or 500, or whatever it is, it's already in the system, it's already priced, they send over the purchase order, you know, there's a whatever 10 to 15 day lead time X amount of time we set that per order. And they come in, we put them in, we ship them out and they're on. They're on, you know, they're all net 30 kind of pay. So we Yeah, yeah, that's why I said yes, everything. The end user, the wholesaler, the repeat business order for a particular product that you know, the customers that our clients are making, and they're just following it in their own box. So, yeah, yes, everything is just good to see you're diverse. We're very,
Eric Girouard 31:32
one, if you have one bad customer in one of those segments, you're not going out of business, your two or three or three of the four could keep the other one to flow and vice versa, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And what I will
Brian Way 31:43
say is, that is where I actually failed. In my last business I had, I think I put all my eggs in one basket, for the most part, I would say my I had one customer that was almost 70% of my business for years. And and when they go out owing a lot of money. It's so it's not recoverable sometimes, right. It's just what happened. So yeah, having having being diverse in in business in case one end of it fails is is key for sure. I mean, we just purchased a trotec laser that's coming in, we have a whole nother set of product lines coming out that I'm not going to divulge into Yeah, yeah, we
Eric Girouard 32:29
have some more listeners.
Brian Way 32:31
Yeah, it very well might put me on the cutting edge of learning as soon as I can. But, yeah, gotta stay diverse, you know, it helps keep the monetary situation alive. You know, you also I found in my previous business, because everything was pay, pay, you get paid when you're done, you know, you give him an invoice, you wait 30 6090 days, the commercial woodworking industry was completely brutal. As far as payments, residential, not so bad. But with what I'm doing now, you know, you know, online sales, they pay immediately. So the money is not going to be in should never be the problem. In that case, if they're paying for the product, you really got to be able to send it out for sure. Now, my larger customers, you know, that's a different situation. Those are all they're all kind of net 30 customers. But that it's not that, like you said it's diverse. So I'm not I'm not concerned with anything.
Eric Girouard 33:35
Yep, yep. Awesome. Okay, so, so you hit on the big things that we talked about, which is modern technology, which is not only from your equipment, your CNCS, to Instagram, and social media, which is, you know, which I give you credit for getting on that separately, we hit on really finances and kind of how you're managing that, which is that, you know, no matter how good your product is, if you can't manage finance, end of the business, you know, you're gonna go upside down. And so the last question I have is, and he touched on a little bit earlier, but in terms of people, which is very hard for a lot of small business people starting out of how do you hire somebody, you know, manage someone train? Yeah, good question. Yes. Is You're right, you're you wouldn't be able to do this on your own, and you'd be dead. And so so what's your take in your learnings from all of your experiences from good and bad on? Yeah, well, so that even infrastructure?
Brian Way 34:33
That's a tough question. I am very fortunate to have to my employees are the ones that started with me in my garage. So they understand my disorganized brain, my dyslexic brain and how I function because we've been functioning we've moved three times. They've been working with me since you know, we're working in 10 Square Feet together. So very fortunate with that. They They are the backbone without a doubt of my company, I couldn't do without them. And yes, we, you know, we can train people to do things and but there are certain situations where it may never may never be as good. And I will give them a public shout out to Eddie and Eddie and Jess, that they are they are the backbone for sure. You know? So Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I mean, we're, you know, we're a small company, I have three onboard employees, and occasionally bring in some other help or consultants or whatever. But we pretty much pump out everything we do with myself plus, plus three employees. And like I said, occasionally. So as far as hiring goes, so I have a couple problems. I am my own bottleneck, my biggest problem and you can see this on social media, I am not going to hide from it. I my biggest problem is customer service right now, because I wear so many hats. They don't answer phones, we get. It used to be I used to say we get about 100 messages a day. I don't I have no idea. Like we're hundreds, between phone calls between Instagram messages, Facebook, texting, phone, you know, it just is never ending. There's not enough time in the day for me to do this for me to get back to everybody. And yes, I'm, I have someone that we're working on working on hiring now as far as helping me manage all that. And, and I could, and maybe should have a secretary answering phones and stuff. But the problem is that these questions that people are asking, this is where this is where the problem comes in. I'm the only one that can answer these questions. Right? You know that that is it like it, it's so difficult to train someone in this field where I've just where I created, and it's just, it's, it's the bottleneck of where I'm at right now. It's a growth stopper, if you will, um, maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I am going to be making another step at some point. So hiring, I cannot do right now, because I, I'm pretty much at max capacity. I'm not at max capacity, but I'm close to it as far as equipment. And now I could fit more, I could fit a little bit more equipment in the shop more another CNC router, and put in the laser is actually going to bring bring have to do it bring in someone else as well. But if I just brought in another person where we're at, you know, one guy can run three CNC machines bounce back and forth. I have six here. I mean, you could actually, depending on the project and how long things run, one guy can run six machines. And if it's done, right, you could feed them and or feed them and just keep walking down the line and doing it. It's, you know, it's actually exhausting. And you can only do this job for so many hours a day and be allowed around these loud machines and everything. Yeah, even wear gloves and stuff. So hiring Yeah. Anyone could be trained for anything. I would hire based on personality, for sure. Because if you have a great personality, there's nothing you can't learn almost nothing. I think you're there's a lot of gifts and talents out there that you're born with. But yeah, this is not one of them. This you can learn. However you you can't learn work ethic, that's something you're that's, you know, you're born with. So if you if you have a great personality, you're born with a good good work ethic, then that's probably what it would take. But when it when it comes time for hiring more people, you know, well, those are those are the kind of goofy look for personal character traits. Not yet Not as much experience in the shop, but website, the back end stuff like that. I'm working with somebody now. That is totally going to be helping me out in that department.
Eric Girouard 39:00
Nice. Nice. Awesome, awesome. Okay, so this is super, super exciting to get the the full spectrum and Dec backstory of which is crazy, by the way. So from young early entrepreneur, starting his own business to bankruptcy to then back to the top like you've kind of gone the roller coaster. Yes, right.
Brian Way 39:22
Yeah, that. And my wife. Yeah, my wife has endured a lot of pain over the years. We I mean, I was married at 22 years old, we've been married. I'm not even sure how old I am. I think I've been married for it'll be 25 years now. And I'm 47 years old. So I might have my math off I don't even know. But so she's in dirt. Everything with me. She's by my side. Just always, you know, cheering me on and she feels my pain. Sometimes she knows. She She knows when to push and when not to but for her You know, I grew up, I, we built our house together everything in the house all the furniture we built together we designed to build everything in now I, I was gonna at one point I said, I've become a hobbyist woodworker. But I'm not even that, because I worked so many hours. I don't have, I have very little time for anything outside of work right now due to the workload at the shop. I mean, I'm here, right, I'm here right now at 7:30pm. So when we, when we get done, I'm gonna probably go back to work. So
Eric Girouard 40:27
Oh, yeah. No, no, I love By the way, and that's an important lesson, which is in, it's not often talked about, but choosing your partner is super important. Because I always say, you know, I can go bankrupt tomorrow, you know, and I had a lot of bad stuff in my bath. But like, I'll get back, I just need enough time and I get back out, you just need someone that understands, hey, listen, you know, I'm with someone that's gonna, that's gonna put it in, they're going to come back out of that hole. And that a lot of people are willing to put up with being in the hole for two years, three years, but who knows how long it is. Right? And I've been in that hole. And I've come out on the other side, and having a partner that especially for an entrepreneur, person, like yourself, you're going to have the ups and you're gonna have the downs. And they're going to be extremes. They're going to be extreme downs, or they're gonna be extreme extreme ups. Yeah. And hopefully, long term, you know, you end up in the up, but you got to fail a bunch before you really succeed like you are right now.
Brian Way 41:25
You certainly fail. You certainly fail a lot. It. It's, I never let it let it get me to down. But yeah, it's I've always had a pretty good work ethic. So
Eric Girouard 41:38
yeah, that's always, I assume as a solution for everything. If you work hard enough. You'll you'll make it work. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Awesome. All right. So to wrap things up, we always like to end on a little bit of a lighter note. And so we have two questions. The first question I have, for us to understand Brian way, and a little bit more personally, is if you could spend 30 minutes with anyone in the world, living deceased celebrity, like unattainable doesn't matter. Family passes relative, who would it be? And why?
Brian Way 42:18
Can I give you one dead and one alive? Yeah, you can go right? That's totally fine. So I'll give you the alive first. The person that I'm going to mention, I believe is in my opinion, one of the most impressive modern day inventors and business people out there in Elan Musk, read all the books about him he's a very unique individual and, and he's a person that would help that the farm and he's come close to losing everything he's had multiple times because of his drive. And as crazy as some of those drives are whether you want to go to Mars or you want to dig tunnels under the ground, or you want to build the rockets that are that the space force is using today and in cars battery he owns. Ilan musk owns the largest battery company in the world solar company, not the largest car company, obviously. But rockets. I mean, look at what this man is accomplished. He's my age. He is 47 years old. And he nothing stops him. He had a very difficult childhood. He did not come from money. He is a self made inventor, entrepreneur and billionaire. It's very impressive what he's achieved in his life. So I would definitely love to sit down and talk with him. Although I heard it's difficult to have any kind of conversation with him. Yet, yeah. So as far as dead, I'm going to pick someone that my guess is nobody that you have had a podcast with has has mentioned Henry Kaiser. I am a big fan of what he has done through just through World War Two in American business. And as far as the inventions and things that he's come up with, I mean, he was part of the the something like it was called something like the four main group, they built the Hoover Dam and multiple dams. They, they, they help turn during World War Two, they turned our automotive plants into producing bombers, you know, I mean, he started Kaiser Permanente, he started the first health care system during the construction of, of the Hoover Dam. I mean, there's so many things that he's done over the years and invented and he's, he's not, he's he was always into lean manufacturing, through those years of Henry Ford. So he, I mean, he was able to, you know, we've heard all the stories of how quickly they're able to produce tanks, trucks, boats, ships, the victory, you know, it was it's mind boggling because they could do then what we cannot do now. So right Understand how we've actually gone in reverse in some manufacturing aspects. So Henry Kaiser is a very, very unique individual. And I've always been, I've always been intrigued by everything he's done.
Eric Girouard 45:14
Now that is a first that is a first more time on it. No, I like that. Okay. And we have had, we have adhia, Ilan musk come up. So Yep. Yeah. He's one of my he's one of mine as well. So that, yeah, strikes out.
Brian Way 45:28
And I will throw out there that if anyone wants to learn about Henry Kaiser, one of my favorite books that I've ever read was freedom's Forge. And it's really about how American business just produced victory through World War Two. You know, it's, it's a really, really good book, there's so many well known people that you'll recognize their names and that it's, you won't put that I listen to my books, I don't read off time to sit down to read, so you won't shut it off until you're done. It's really a fantastic book.
Eric Girouard 46:01
Wow. Love it. All right, that's on my list. Okay, last question. So, when you're able to unplug from your business, which sounds like is almost never, when you're actually able to unplug, whether it's on your own or with your wife, or sometimes a lot of people it's on their own? What is your number one release in life, when you're able to say Kaizen is on pause? You know, everything's done for the day, the teams are the teams there, they've got it, I can kind of unplug, turn off my phone Instagram's off? What's the one thing in life that you love to do to take a release?
Brian Way 46:38
Well, well, first, I'm going to say that my wife would argue that I never showed off Instagram. So we'll start with that.
Eric Girouard 46:44
But mine too, by the way, yeah.
Brian Way 46:48
I would say by the end of the week, by Thursday, Friday, I'm really craving a night out, I love to eat, I love food, I love good quality food, I love to go out my wife and I it's just one of our favorite things to do. It's just to dine out with the two of us, with our, with our kids, when son and daughter, although they're getting older, they're 15 and 18. And they don't so much like Dining Out with us anymore. And, but you know, my wife and I really enjoy our, our, our time together. And we both love food. So I do look forward to that as as a release. And I would say if I'm at the shop, it's if it's on the weekend, and I just have to get away. And I think you and I talked about this, we have something called the Kaizen toy garage now and I have I keep my 47 dodge truck in there and my son has his bike, I have a bike in there, my employee, Edie keeps his bike in there, and I'll just, we'll just kind of, I see him going in there every now and then too. We just kind of go in there and just you know, get away, you know, it's it. And whether it's to work on something or just like I need a break, you know, I gotta go in the room kind of thing. Yep. It's a nice release, whether it's for a minute, an hour, or you need to spend a few hours just putzing around and you know, with my gearhead roots, you know, working on the truck, or whatever it is. So yeah, that's, uh, that's, that's my two releases, I
Eric Girouard 48:18
guess. Love it, love it. Now, this has been incredible. This is one of the one of the best podcasts we've had, you know, from, from, you know, starting at age 14, to to where you are today triumphs, tribulations bankruptcy, the servicing some of the biggest customers in agency, get, you know, government agencies, it sounds like in the world, you know, it's a story of, you know, truly hard, hard work and determination and not letting the down moments, you know, get you down. And yeah, for sure. For sure. You've in your, you've carved you've, you've I was gonna make a pun about you've carved out your niche, but that have been too fucking corny. So, now, so I'm glad, honestly, appreciate you taking the time. It's one of the longest podcasts we've had, but it was too good to stop it early. So, no, we really appreciate Brian your time talking about all the historical stuff. And then obviously, all things that Kaizen is, and obviously, we'll be, you know, talking about Kaizen all week and driving back to the business and, and anyone has questions. Clearly, you know, by this, you message or reach out to them, you're going to get to Brian, so you will,
Brian Way 49:38
sooner or later you will get to me just keep trying. That's what I would say. Keep trying. Because right now I'm I'm doing the majority of it. Yes.
Eric Girouard 49:47
Awesome. Awesome. All right. Thanks so much, Brian. We'll talk soon. soon. Thank you very much.
Brian Way never intended to build a career out of foam inserts. A lifelong entrepreneur, Brian first started his career in the trades at 14 building a carpentry business. By 16, he was managing his first book, a client filtered through his dad's painting business.
By 18, he had found a niche for himself in custom woodworking, and carpentry and within a few years he was running a 10,000 square foot facility, with over a dozen staffed employees.
Things took a turn in 2006. With an impending economic crash, and clients holding out on payments, Brian soon found himself bankrupt and back at square one.
Within the next year, Brian sold every asset, collected a small crew, and built out two box trucks geared for residential and commercial millwork installation. For Brian, this was a huge turning point. Going from a huge facility to running a workshop from his truck, was no small feat. Over the next 10 years, he dialed in the art of maximizing his work space.
One of the key products Brian utilized to create systems of efficiency? Foam. Buying sheets of foam, and cutting out space for his tools became a huge factor in his day-day work management. Not only that, but others started to notice as well. "...everyone that saw the stuff always had something to say...they were enamored with what we were doing...."
This was yet another major turning point for Brian as he not only found a system for himself, but realized what he was doing might be a need for others. A short while later, he purchased a CNC cutting machine (a programmed saw) and began cutting foam templates of his tools to sell online. "...they'd sell. they were doing really well on e-bay for a while, and it got to the point where I couldn't really keep up..."
Still working his day-job installing millwork, Brian would come home to work more just to keep this side hustle alive. Soon, the workload was extending past that and Brian was hiring a full-time worker just to manage the orders coming in. "...he said to me, you know Brian, I think you're standing in front of a freight train and you need to get out of it's way."
6 months had passed since Brian first put the products online and he began to realize that things were getting out of control. It was at this time that Brian made the leap and brought what is today known as Kaizen Inserts into existence. The business has grown immensely since it's humble beginnings as a side-hustle from Brian's garage. With over 92k followers on Instagram, there is still room to grow, but Brian has big plans for what's next.
Tune into to hear Brian's full story. Where he is going, and all the insights he’s offering along the way.