This is a story of hope for the future of our industry. Matt Redhead is a young entrepreneur who started his career in customer service and sales, but always had his sights set on owning a business. Recently, he achieved his dream by becoming the fourth owner of a 46-year-old contract manufacturing business just outside of Portland, Oregon. For those of you who worry about the younger folks joining our ranks, this interview will renew your faith.
Dan Beaulieu: Matt, thanks for talking with me today. Please tell me about your company.
Matt Redhead: Our company was founded in 1976 in McMinnville, Oregon as a way to serve the then-emerging Silicon Forest, which was named for the tech industry in Portland area, including Tektronix, Intel, HP, etc., by providing them with contract manufacturing services.
Beaulieu: That was pretty much at the very beginning of contract manufacturing, wasn’t it?
Redhead: Yes, it was right at the start.
Beaulieu: Matt, what is your background?
Redhead: My background is in sales and customer service. I love being at the tip of the spear for a supply chain. After working for a manufacturer’s rep for many years, I desired to run my own manufacturing company. I worked with local business brokers and kept on the lookout for a good and promising company to buy. I closely followed the businesses for sale listings, looking for the right company to buy. I also learned everything I could about the SBA 7a funding process. In 2019, I landed on ExcelTech Inc. (ETI), and I liked what I saw. I bought the company, and now I am writing its next chapter.
Beaulieu: Congratulations. What is the basic strategy of your company?
Redhead: It’s pretty straightforward: provide excellent service and product quality. We are dedicated to delighting our customers. Our simple philosophy is to exceed our customers’ expectations when it comes to quality and service.
Beaulieu: I know ETI is a contract manufacturer. What are your products and services?
Redhead: PCBA, box build, electro-mechanical assembly, test, conformal coating, inventory management and most importantly, whatever the customer needs. We are flexible and focused on our customers entire Inventory management.
Beaulieu: How do you approach sales?
Redhead: My background is sales; I grew up selling; I am an old-fashioned salesperson. I love cold calling for new prospects, demonstrating to our existing customers that we try to anticipate their needs and are earning their continued trust with every order.
Beaulieu: What is the mission of the company?
Redhead: ExcelTech Inc. is committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations with respect to quality, delivery, value, and overall satisfaction.
Beaulieu: Who is your ideal customer?
Redhead: Our ideal customers are innovative OEM clients that value collaboration, communication, and service. We are grateful for customers who order and pay on a predictable schedule.
Beaulieu: Yes, customers that pay is a very important customer qualification. Why do your customers like working with you?
Redhead: We are responsive and fun to work with. If you are not having fun when you work it’s not worth it.
Beaulieu: Let’s talk service. You make money servicing customers; how do you do that? What makes you stand out as a PCBA company?
Redhead: ETI stands out because we are always client forward. When faced with any decision involving a customer’s product, we ask ourselves, “How would we want to be treated?” We give the client the opportunity to help us make key decisions along the way. We try to reduce surprises and maintain expectations.
Beaulieu: What do you better than anyone else?
Redhead: We get great reviews for our responsiveness. We are always willing to go the extra mile for the customers. That word “no” is not in our vocabulary.
Beaulieu: Why are you outstanding as a PCBA company?
Redhead: We have long-term experience. We have numerous technicians that have been in the industry for 20-plus years. Our regular customers trust us with high density, complex assemblies that we successfully deliver on schedule. Our routine is dependable.
Beaulieu: How do you acquire new customers?
Redhead: Several ways, including industry events, referrals, and cold calls. Our lead generation process is market research.
Beaulieu: How are you investing in the company right now?
Redhead: We are investing in our facility and our people. We keep all our equipment in top shape, we are focused on strenuous employee training, and we have achieved our QMS ISO-9001.
Beaulieu: What ROI criteria do you use when deciding to buy new equipment?
Redhead: Its always about efficiency. We ask ourselves the simple question, “Are we contributing to an increase in efficiency and quality?”
Beaulieu: Matt, let’s talk about quality.
Redhead: Sure. Our QMS meets the ISO-9001-2015 third-party standard. This gives our customers the assurance that we are committed to continuous improvement.
Beaulieu: Where will you be investing your money in the future?
Redhead: New pick-and-place to expand our volume and placement capabilities.
Beaulieu: What are your plans for growth?
Redhead: We have a very aggressive growth plan. We would like to grow by five times in the next five years. We want to continue to perform at current or better service levels, and seek new stable business from customers that fit our profile.
Beaulieu: How have you fared during the pandemic?
Redhead: It has not been a real issue. The market dipped for a few months, but all customers came back and things are pretty much back to normal.
Beaulieu: How do you see the market today? What markets do you compete in?
Redhead: We are right now a high-mix, low-volume. But we would like to take on some higher volume customers/projects.
Beaulieu: What are the challenges for competing in that market?
Redhead: Earning the opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities. It takes a lot of influence to earn a new client’s trust.
Beaulieu: As we conclude, Matt, what are your thoughts on our industry?
Redhead: It is really encouraging to see an increase in domestic manufacturing. We have been able to draw in two new clients who were being serviced overseas and we have successfully been meeting their manufacturing needs at or near the price they were paying for import. When they get to subtract-out shipping, tariff, and rework; and get to add-in ease of communication, responsiveness, and decreased delivery time, the decision to use a domestic CM often becomes an overall savings. As for ETI, our customers are stable. We are braced for a recession-related downturn from individual customers, but we are confident our sales funnel will continue to contribute bottom line growth. Currently we have available capacity and are actively pursuing new customers. We never lose customers because of poor quality or service.
Beaulieu: That sounds good. Thanks for talking to me today Matt.
Redhead: My pleasure.