OPENED FOR BUSINESS: My wife of 19 years, Christen, and I opened in the summer of 2002 as a sole proprietorship. Today, nearly 10 years later, we operate as an LLC with a 51/49 partnership.
WHY: I was laid off from my job of five years because my salesmanship and resultant success at that company were a threat to the owner's ego. I was a hard worker, and made every effort to win projects, but when customers would rather speak to me [than my boss], my efforts were no longer needed. I deliberately never solicited work from those same customers when I went out on my own as Patriot Welding & Fabrication, so that company could never say I stole work away. Counted as a blessing, it was the best thing he (the owner) ever did for me, and I've never looked back or spoken an ill word of him.
CAPABILITIES: We hire only skilled fabricators and produce the highest-quality work in the metal fabrication trade, utilizing old-school as well as new-technology machines and equipment. From high-end ornamental ironwork, to commercial stairs and rails, we do all of our own fabrication and machining. When it comes to bending stair pans or powder coating, those processes are subcontracted for reasons of economy and frequency of use of capital equipment, as well as space on the shop floor.
SHOP WORKHORSES (most-used/indispensable equipment): I would say our most used pieces of equipment, and impossible to live without would be our Ellis band saw, Lincoln Electric welding machines, and Mittler Bros. notcher, but the equipment most taken for granted would be our 4,000-lb. forklift. It's saved our backs every time, and works without complaint!
MOST UNUSUAL OR MEMORABLE PROJECT: Framed in the office is a picture of the Prospect Place staircase in Waltham, Mass. A beautiful AESS project, but done for another shop, so we can't advertise it; but we do take the opportunity to show it off when possible. It's truly a beautiful staircase with waterjet-cut pieces, bits of stainless steel, a wooden handrail, and marble treads.
GREATEST CHALLENGE: Most recently a project we completed in Alton Bay. The distance from the shop meant only two trips to field-measure, and the complexity of the mason work, made this ornamental project a real hair-puller. Surprisingly, though, it was the copper vein powder coating over galvanized that made for the most trouble. To date it's the finish that causes the most grief.
LOOKING AHEAD: In 2008 we became a WBE (women-owned business enterprise), thanks to my wife's diligence and hard work when I was deployed to Iraq in 2007 - 2008. Receiving this accreditation was a slam-dunk, since it was she who continued to keep our business alive in my absence. Moving forward, we hope to capitalize on the set-asides and seize the opportunities afforded WBEs in government, defense, and contracting.
ADVICE FOR WOULD-BE SHOP OWNERS: Weather the storm. Make the tough decisions so your company will endure, but communicate your intent to everyone in the company, because a high tide rises all ships! If your workers know that you care about them and their families, they'll work hard and be loyal. Share your success with those that got you there, and keep an open dialogue with your team.