Grow Your Business by Learning Key Nuances From the Metal Fabrication Industry w/ Robert Johnson

WBSP033: Grow Your Business by Learning Key Nuances From the Metal Fabrication Industry w/ Robert Johnson

In this episode, we have our guest Robert Johnson, who discusses how the metal fabrication industry’s manufacturing processes differ from generalized manufacturing. He also provides insight into the unique challenges associated with the metal fabrication industry and the production of cold-formed steel. Finally, he shares some thoughts about the value of LinkedIn and how executives from traditional industries such as metal fabrication can take advantage of LinkedIn.

Chapter Markers

  • [0:17] Intro
  • [2:32] Personal journey and current focus
  • [3:16] Perspective on growth
  • [4:19] The importance of relationships
  • [5:36] The effective methods of cold-calling
  • [8:57] The supply chain challenges of the metal fabrication industry
  • [11:18] The role of systems in the growth of a company
  • [14:10] Metal fabrication vs. generalized manufacturing
  • [19:07] The purchase process of steel
  • [21:03] How to hedge commodity price risk for steel products?
  • [26:58] Sustainability in the construction industry
  • [32:00] The role of LinkedIn influence for construction executives
  • [37:44] Closing thoughts
  • [40:38] Outro

Key Takeaways

  • What I’ve learned mostly about healthy growth is to be creative and to develop a relationship, the relationship, absolutely vital to healthy growth in business.
  • Younger generations now want to work in tech, and they want to do it, they want to work with computers, they don’t want to work with their hands anymore. Very few. And so we have a, for lack of a better term, we have a dumbing down of the labor force.
  • Let’s make it into an industry-specific customer, a potential customer, a general contractor, a hotel developer that I’m trying to I would love to get some business around, I’ll call that individual just introduce myself and never talk about business or what we did. To me, that’s not a cold call it.
  • A cold call is almost anti-relationship. To me, the relationship is meeting somebody in a convenience store. Obviously, I’ve never met that person before. But we can see and can make eye contact. We can read body language. And we can smile at one another. There are other things that happen before there’s any conversation or interaction that is impossible.

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About Robert

Robert Johnson is a Construction Executive with 40+ years of experience in all sectors of construction. He has constructed projects totaling $375,000,000 and currently is Director of Manufacturing and Business Development at MAC Prefab, a Cold-Formed Steel Manufacturer and Fabricator servicing the Central and Western United States. As a member of ASPE(American Society of Professional Estimators), Robert contributes to many peer groups regarding current market trends.


Full Transcript

Robert Johnson 0:00

It doesn’t wear out and all those things, but you have to purchase it smartly. You have to be able to utilize purchasing at the right time and then forecasting you can then make some more money. Or you pass those savings along and wind projects by being able to have the cheaper materials.

Intro 0:17

Growing a business requires a holistic approach that extends beyond sales and marketing. This approach needs alignment among people, processes, and technologies. So if you’re a business owner, operations, or finance leader looking to learn growth strategies from your peers and competitors, you’re tuned into the right podcast. Welcome to the WBS podcast, where scalable growth using business systems is our number one priority. Now, here is your host, Sam Gupta.

Sam Gupta 0:53

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of The WBS podcast. I’m Sam Gupta, your host, and principal consultant at a digital transformation consulting firm, ElevatIQ. The metal fabrication industry has several nuances that don’t exist in generalized manufacturing. The metal fabrication industry also has unique challenges, such as sustainability that increase operational overhead. Finally, the unique manufacturing process and interactions with different stakeholders increase the process complexity.

In today’s episode, we have our guest, Robert Johnson, who discusses how the metal fabrication industries’ manufacturing processes differ from generalized manufacturing. He also provides his insight into the unique challenges associated with the metal fabrication, industry, and production of cold-formed steel. Finally, he shares some thoughts about the value of LinkedIn and how executives from traditional industries such as metal fabrication can take advantage of LinkedIn. Let me introduce Robert to you.

Sam Gupta 1:52

Robert Johnson is a construction executive with 40 plus years of experience in all sectors of construction. He has constructed projects totaling $375 million and is currently the director of manufacturing and business development at MAC prefab. Its MAC prefab is a cold-formed steel manufacturer and fabricator serving the central and western United States. As a member of an SPE, which is also known as the American Society of Professional Estimators. Robert contributes to many big groups regarding current market trends. With that, let’s get to the conversation here. Robert, welcome to the show.

Robert Johnson 2:31

Good morning.

Sam Gupta 2:32

Okay, just to kick things off, do you want to start with your personal story and your current focus?

Robert Johnson 2:36

Absolutely, I have been a part of construction management, business development for 40-plus years, started very young, working in the field, working with my hands, learning every little piece and part, and picking up every little piece of hardware. And that has developed through estimating and through management, senior management, executive level management, business development, and it just it has brought me to the place that I’m at today, which is I am all about growing, innovating, being creative, are really taking and helping a business get to the next level.

Sam Gupta 3:16

Okay, so that’s really interesting because that’s the focus of the show. So one of the things that we typically ask all of our guests is going to be your perspective on growth. What does growth mean to you, Robert?

Robert Johnson 3:27

Well, that’s very interesting. And I’m a fan. I like to put it this way. I’m a more seasoned individual. I’m not on the young side. And it has changed as I’ve grown in, and I guess the right word is mature. So my perspective on growth now is it’s on healthy growth, there is just going I’ve been a part of so many businesses that have been so concerned with growth, that that quality of work that profitability, all took a shot, and in many cases, some of those businesses don’t survive, many of those businesses don’t survive. So it’s all been about healthy growth. And I think what I’ve learned mostly about healthy growth is to be creative and to develop a relationship, the relationship, absolutely vital to healthy growth in business.

Sam Gupta 4:19

So when you say relationship, what are these relationships? Are these relationships with your stakeholders in your industries? Are these employee relationship customer relationship partner relationships? Define what the relationships are?

Robert Johnson 4:34

Yeah, that’s very interesting. And again, that has morphed to work or is transformed over time. I used to think that it was just primarily industry-related or trade-related contact people in relationships, whether it be vendors who are very important and can be a vital part of growth and good vendor relationship, but I’ve even drilled it down into casting a wider net, creating relationships on even the most basic level from meeting somebody in a convenience store, to social media to walk in just any and all of those things.

And of those relationships, I have found many of those relationships can lead to business opportunities, opportunities for growth, whether it be in manpower, skilled manpower, or be in profitable jobs, equipment, philosophies, things of that nature. So it’s just, it’s transformed over time. And now it’s much broader. I look forward everywhere I go.

Sam Gupta 5:36

Yeah. So that’s a very interesting perspective. And I’m actually going to ask a fun question there. Okay. So typically, I mean, you have been in the sales for a long time, and you have a very different perspective than if you meet somebody in the convenience store, you care for that relationship. So what is your perspective on the cold calls? Because some of the people who get calls from the salespeople, they don’t really appreciate them? Do you believe in cold calls? Do you think that you can probably get something out of the cold calls when you get a call from anybody? What’s your perspective on that

Robert Johnson 6:11

This is great because you kind of hit. It’s funny that you would really hone in on that I am. I have done cold calls. I have lived the cold call life. To me, a cold call is almost anti-relationship. To me, the relationship is an I’ll use the example of meeting somebody in a convenience store. Obviously, I’ve never met that person before. But we can see we can make eye contact. We can read body language. We can smile at one another. There are other things that happen before there’s any conversation or interaction that is impossible.

Well, I say impossible in a phone call. A cold call is typically you’ve never met, you’ve never talked. And that is not to say that it’s not effective. It is very effective in some cases in some industries. But I do know that it is probably one of the biggest pet peeves that people have is being on the receiving end of a cold call. And I’m a very open type of individual, obviously. But there is something that just makes the hair stand on the back of my neck. I’m not rude or ugly about it. I feel like we need to have some other conversation. First, let’s build up to that introduction. And then let’s talk about business at another time. So I have a long answer to your question.

Sam Gupta 7:27

Look, if somebody is cold calling, and they are simply trying to sell something directly and not really knowing who they are selling to, then it could be problematic, right. But a cold call could be a really fast way of connecting with someone, just introducing yourself and probably meeting for a meeting. Would you still appreciate that? Would he not appreciate that? What would be your perspective on that?

Robert Johnson 7:52

No. Now see, I have a different definition of that, that I do that that is exactly that is very effective. So for instance, let’s make it into an industry-specific customer, a potential customer, a general contractor, a hotel developer that I’m trying to I would love to get some business around, I’ll call that individual just introduce myself and never talk about business or what we did. To me, that’s not a cold call it.

In fact, it is, but I mean, in the most basic definition, it is. But to me, that is just simply, hey, buddy, how’s it going? I love your hotels. I think you do a great job. And if it invariably will lead to well, hey, thank you very much. I pray that they take the guard down, then they ask the question, well, what is it exactly that you guys do? Then it has turned into a sales call. It is no longer a cold call because valve their guard is let down. There’s comfort. There is a relationship beginning to fail.

Sam Gupta 8:57

Okay. Yeah, it’s definitely an interesting perspective. So now, let’s talk about your metal fabrication industry. So obviously, we need to talk about the nuances of that. And the current state, especially with COVID. So tell me a little bit about how the metal fabrication industry works. What are some of the supply chain challenges issues at this point in time because of COVID?

Robert Johnson 9:18

Sure, I can honestly say that COVID has really had a minimal impact on us. At a local level. Obviously, a greater level of that is where we sourced materials from federal, which I’ll get to in a second. But my background and the cold form steel market was as an again, as a framer, somebody that worked in the field and actually put the pieces and parts together, went to a material supply store and purchased studs in varying various links, etc. and then install those components fabricated on a job, etc.

Where I think that that the industry has gone and maybe one of the nuances with it, now is, and I’ll get into more about the differences and where I think the wood and the steel are, etc. But the labor force over the last several years, as we’ve gone through generation and generation, the younger generations now want to work in tech, and they want to do it, they want to work with computers, they don’t want to work with their hands anymore. Very few. And so we have a, for lack of a better term, we have a dumbing down of the labor force.

So, to combat that in the construction industry, of course, technology has to come into that. And where we’ve gone with the cold form steel industry, and where I think it is ultimately going to go permanently is the purchasing of coils, slip coils, steel coil, and then actually having the roll forming machines and fabricating that in a shop, the ability to use the software and the inner and all of those pieces and hearts to fabricate balls in a controlled environment where the quality control goes way up, and you ultimately wind it with a better product that gets sent out to the field and somebody with very little knowledge can assemble parts and come up with a very safe and effective way to build.

Sam Gupta 11:18

Okay, so as you are suggesting that there have been a lot of changes, you know, in the industry, it’s not as manual as it used to be. So I don’t know if you have any background in utilizing any systems, let’s say for estimation and also the processes that are being changed. Obviously, when you move to the larger industry or larger companies, they use far more sophisticated ERP systems to maintain their success. And you also made a comment that some of the businesses don’t survive. And I would guess that those are probably smaller businesses. So tell me your perspective, overall on growth, and how and what kind of role the systems play in the growth, and any challenges with that.

Robert Johnson 12:03

You’re right on. And unfortunately, I think the reason it affects the smaller businesses more often is less capital, less ability to purchase or step up and go take that technology to another level or use those tools. I can tell you that it makes it so much easier when you know in utilizing estimation software, onscreen, takeoff, plan grid, things like that, where you build the models within the system.

And then it’s a matter of, again, the lack of a better term dumbing it down to where some people can learn. They call they have to do scale drawing, for instance, and, and choose the right wall model. And it has all the components in there, the clips, that pieces, the screws, the shots, the pins, all of those things that make up that system and come up with a much more accurate way of estimating that takes that being able to have that technology and integrating it then with designers and our CAD guys that that utilize, we utilize frame CAD Frank as an excellent software, we also utilize my tech, my tech and their software and building trusses.

Robert Johnson 13:12

And it actually does a lot of the engineering for you. So it tells you whether your components are going to pass or fail. And we can model and build all of those things that then ultimately go to a structural engineer and get that takeoff weave and tie in laying out in the field with tools that you know are for layout, or you are using lasers and GPS, and we have people in the field checking construction conditions in real-time put, you know, putting him on a tablet, that information gets to a designer, real-time that’s happening all life and so that when the components are put out into the field, they arrive, right. All of that. Yeah. It is just making construction a much more exact science, and a much, much better product. Unfortunately, the smaller businesses struggle because some of those systems can be costly.

Sam Gupta 14:10

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. So let’s talk about the overall industry and the processes a little bit more. So let’s compare this with generalized manufacturing. Your metal fabrication, especially the space you are in, it’s fairly unique. And sometimes it could be, let’s say, construction or manufacturing. If you look at the traditional manufacturing, then these guys are going to have products that are going to have, let’s say, bills of materials or BOMs, and then they have a fairly standardized process in terms of building these products right because that that could be done on the shop floor.

But in your case, it’s going to be slightly different because you have your production floor. You need to build this, and then you need to do a lot of field services with it. So you are going to have a bunch of processes the inventory the financials involved there. So tell me the nuances of metal fabrication how it differs from generalized manufacturing.

Robert Johnson 15:03

I may be way off base here, but in general, let’s just stick to general manufacturing of and how it would pertain to our particular industry, cold-form steel, which would be mass producing cold-form steel products, stud floor joist things that nature is a piece of the actual pieces. And that’s produced or manufactured at a mass volume level. It’s just one right after another. It’s just taking and printing studs at different lengths and bundling and sending.

Yeah, where are the differences in ours is it’s basically the same process except our technology takes and cuts and, and punches holes and drills holes and does all these different pieces in that same piece as it’s being manufactured, which then goes and it’s being printed on the inkjet printers are printing on each component and what the job name, what the wall number is all those things that are then having to be taken to another place as you’ve rightly pointed out, and or another place in a shop and assembled?

Robert Johnson 16:07

And then from an assembly standpoint, having to be moved throughout a shop, whether it has coatings or surfaces applied to it, ultimately loaded on a truck and then logistics and how to get it to the job site. So if there are components about it that are basically standard manufacturing, but the tweak in there is what it does with the pieces and parts automatically. And then the manual piece of having to put it together. So it differs quite significantly.

But I think it has evolved to a much better place than just a standard manufacturer. There is a place for standard manufacturing because people are always going to just build it by the piece. But yeah, it’s a higher, much more advanced form of manufacturing is the best way for me to say

Sam Gupta 16:55

Okay, so let’s talk about some other aspects of the manufacturing process. So let’s say you know if we talk about casting and doing so, in this particular case, do you see in your industry that the costing is fairly sophisticated of the product costs? Do you track at the machine level at the process level? Do you account for labor? How is costing done in your industry?

Robert Johnson 17:20

Well, it is absolutely cost-driven. And as you know, steel is a commodity. So right now, steel prices are very volatile. And it all boils down to that piece of steel that comes in a slip coil. So it may be 3,000 pounds of steel. But right now, we’re seeing over the next 60 days. We’ve already been instructed by our steel suppliers. We’re expecting a 30% increase over the next 60 days and steel pricing.

So there’s modeling we have utilized modeling be very sophisticated to purchase steel, much like you would try to buy stocks buy when it hits below and hold on to it. Again, it’s capital, and that can take up a lot of capitalism if you’re not busy enough to sit in a warehouse somewhere and take up space until you can use it, but do in doing that, the joy in this is where it works exciting to me is the differences in wood, we’ve been a wood world for so long.

And you can store mass quantities of steel coils. You can put enough steel coil to build a 2,500 square foot home in a bedroom in your house. And it doesn’t warp, it doesn’t wear out and all of those things, but you have to purchase it smartly you have to be able to utilize purchasing at the right time and then forecasting you can then make some more money, or you pass those savings along and win projects by being able to have that cheaper material.

But yeah, if that really is where it is, though, of course, the labor, all the labor and pieces, and parts that all pretty much stay the same, but ours is strictly really majority driven on the cost of coal from the steel itself.

Sam Gupta 19:07

Okay, so that’s very interesting. And that would probably add to some of the logistics challenges because you are basically tapping into the price of your commodity you need to buy in a store, so I don’t know if you store if you buy this and store at a, let’s say at a 3PL or do you simply sign the agreement so that they can deliver whenever you need. So how is that purchase process? Can you touch a bit on that?

Robert Johnson 19:35

So we actually do it a couple of different ways. We will either purchase it outright, and it will come to us, or because coil steel comes in varying widths. It comes to us when we get it. It comes to us on a six-inch to 10-inch width. But in actuality, when it’s delivered when you people, maybe many people have seen it going down the road on the highway. It’s one single big pile of steel in the middle of a massive truck. They’re Five, four, or five feet wide.

So we have suppliers that we can purchase those that they will keep in stock in their yard in their warehouse, for instance, until we need it to be shipped, and then brought to us or the other pieces that we just buy it. We store it ourselves, but we have a couple of different things. But I guess, though, in some cases, it says you describe, it’s we signed purchase order, we bought it, we don’t see it, it’s in your warehouse somewhere until we need it. But we have added that price that we agreed upon at the time of purchase.

Sam Gupta 20:39

Okay, so this is a very interesting perspective again because, you know, you are totally locking your cash down in your inventory. And obviously, you have been in this industry for a very long time. So maybe you can predict the price of a seal. But from my experience from my family is in manufacturing. We used to lose a lot of money just because they could not forecast how the price of a commodity is.

Robert Johnson 21:02


Sam Gupta 21:03

So who typically loses a lot of money. Does it matter how accurate your prediction is? And what do you do to hedge the risk there?

Robert Johnson 21:12

Well, thankfully, it’s not very volatile. So steel that we purchased 30 days ago, you know, at a certain price is the although it may go up 60, you know, or 30%, over the next 60 days, it’s going to take a great deal of time for it to go back to the level of that, that we purchased at that previously. So the chances of us purchasing something, and then it winds up going the other direction where we’re holding steel now that we’ve bought it at that increased value, and now the markets down and we have to get rid of more expensive steel.

Yeah, it doesn’t happen. Because we’re busy enough, the steel that we purchase is typically getting run through our shop quick, we actually are on the other side of it, although we try, and it sounds fantastic. That makes us sound very intelligent when I say, oh, we buy steel when it’s super cheap, and we don’t buy it when it’s expensive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. So we are going to be purchasing steel when it’s at that that 30% increase.

When that gets to be the case, then you’re buying what you need for a project at that time. And hopefully, you don’t have a lot of that on stock when the prices turn around. And they ultimately do they just you know, it’s very cyclical would recently go through it would be up in the middle of 2020 was up over 100% at someplace. People couldn’t get with it. It made projects go away. They no longer penciled. So it’s interesting, we don’t thankfully, steel has not been fat volatile, but it’s just it’s like playing the stock. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

Sam Gupta 22:53

Exactly. And that’s a great analogy. Because you’re saying that, you are never going to have to, let’s say, get rid of the steel because you are using it. But at the same time, if we compare this with the stock market, you are probably losing money on that steel. If you are tracking your costs accurately, right? Because you have a real one, you have the expensive steel in the stock. So I don’t know if your product prices are going to come down, because now that steel is cheaper in the market. And then you have storage as well. So I don’t know how much you plan that, but there is definitely going to be some loss there. Right?

Robert Johnson 23:27

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and it is whether that loss on where it comes out is that we will pass along those cost increases to pay an owner or a general contractor or our customer, we will try to intelligently forecast and let them know ahead of time just like our vendor does us. But like for instance, right now, we’ve got several big projects that are getting very close, and we’re informing our customers, hey, listen, if you want to save potentially 30%, Let’s get your steel purchase right now.

So but ultimately, you’re right that the labor pretty much stays the same, although with rates being labor rates being increased now minimum wage, so forth, labor is fair. I mean, it’s always the same. And we’re always competitively bidding, which makes it also extremely difficult. So yeah, there are times when we don’t, when you can’t make money off your steel as you might typically be able to sometimes, the steel is getting passed through at cost just to get a project. So you’re correct. Sometimes you do in quotation marks lose some money on it.

Sam Gupta 24:41

Yeah. But you brought an interesting point that you at least have some questions that you know, you are able to sign these agreements with your vendors, but at the same time, you’re also signing these agreements with your customer. So basically, they are going to take, hey, that’s the nature of the industry, right? Because of the prices, then they have to lock themselves up to be able to have that. So you are in a good position there as a middleman that you are at least able to pass on some of that risk. Yeah, sometimes it’s an excellent closing tool.

Sam Gupta 25:09

Yes. So let’s talk about sustainability. You know you had some comments about the, and you do a lot of work in the sustainability and your industry, sustainability could be equally important too, because now we are building the house here, right? So obviously, we need to make sure that our lives are protected. Right. So how do you ensure the quality, and number two, how do you ensure the sustainability issue in your industry?

Robert Johnson 25:34

Well, it’s very interesting. One of the things when I talk about sustainability, is, of course, the fact that cold-form steel is 100% manufactured with recycled material, and which is fantastic. The safety aspects alone in building facility or home or whatever I’ve called from sales post would greatly offset any potential cost increase in material. But the analogy or an example that I like to tell people in, it will take typically, if we take in the example of a 2000 to 2500 square foot home, it takes approximately 40 trees to in lumber to build that home.

It takes the equivalent weight and steel with cars. So as far as what we’re doing for the future, what we’re doing for our children, making the jump to cold form steel, just the product alone just is so much wiser. But there is a cost increase that we have found that is roughly 2% when you factor in reduced insurance costs and things of that nature. But yeah, it’s much like working all the way around. And so we love the saleability of this the sustainability of steel.

Sam Gupta 26:58

okay, so tell me the market penetration and market receptiveness. Obviously, as you mentioned that, if there is going to be a cost increase, and the cost is always a factor when we think about the environment, but we need to be conscious of the environment as well. So when you talk to your customers, how are they receiving this? Are they able to sell, let’s say, their homes at a higher price, just because that is going to be slightly more environmentally friendly? Because somebody has to be at that cost, right? I mean, everybody’s going to take a share of it. So tell me a whole market, we’ll see said, Are there any other value prop of the cold-formed? Or is it simply going to be more from the sustainability environment perspective?

Robert Johnson 27:42

Well, it’s very interesting what I find, and this is the unfortunate part. And I think this is changing with time. But the majority of our customers care about the cost with this going to cost period. And they don’t even and again, it’s changing, but many of them the sustainability and those benefits aren’t as important as being able because most of our customers are general contractors, those general contractors are bidding against other general contractors.

So it’s all about costs. So what we have done, and really, we have a which sounds very grand, we have this vision of changing the industry and for years and years and years, builders, General Contractors Rayners have been able to send drawings to a lumberyard, for instance, and that lumberyard does everything they do the takeoff, they just basically do the whole thing, they give you a price, your package gets dropped at your job site, you have people show up and put it together.

Nobody does that for the cold-form steel industry. So we want to be that lumberyard for the cold-form steel industry. The biggest piece of this is educating our customers. There are so many benefits of builders risk insurance is much cheaper when you build a facility out of full form steel as opposed to lumber. Property insurance is so much cheaper. The health and safety of buildings made of steel don’t burn fast. People can get out of the building quicker.

You don’t have as much loss of life. In many cases, all of those pieces and parts have to end. It’s just an education process. And fortunately, some people get it, and others just look at the bottom line. And that’s it. They look at the bottom line today. They don’t look at the fact that they’re going to say 60,000 a year in property insurance for the next ten years, which is going to make up that percentage of increase that you’re spending to utilize cold form steel.

So it’s all about education. And I think some of that is our buyers, our purchase our ultimate customers are becoming more environmentally conscious. And as the times change, so I think we’re getting there. We’re just getting there a little bit slower than I would like.

Sam Gupta 30:01

Okay, and do you see from the cost perspective, do you think that in the future, the cost is probably going to be pulling to work just because I don’t know if the government is paying attention to this, but ideally, as a society, I guess it would be a lot more steel, right to somebody to pay attention to this, maybe we can increase to gold, and then you will be at a much easier place. Because at the end of the day, as a society as human beings, I think we should probably utilize still a lot more than gold.

Robert Johnson 30:33

We are getting closer and closer to, again, if you factor in and people understand all the cost benefits of utilizing cold-form steel, not just in the construction of cold-form steel, again, it’s easier for me to educate or convince a hotel, a developer and owner, somebody that holds on to a building for many years, they own 10-12 hotels, it’s easier for me to convince that gentleman, and he’ll pay that, for that matter, he’ll pay that premium at the time of construction, for quicker ROI because the construction with cold-form steel takes less time than it takes with wood.

So he’ll get two more months of rentals of all of his hotels or his apartment buildings. So what are all those things? They look at it a bigger, bigger picture than when we’re dealing with just a general contractor who’s competitively bidding against somebody else. And most of the time, it’s all about price. So, unfortunately, that’s just the nature of construction. But I do feel the tide turning. And we are getting there; we’re getting much many more requests for building homes out of coal from steel than we ever have. So we’re getting there.

Sam Gupta 32:00

Okay, amazing. Love it. Now we want to cover the most interesting topic that we really wanted to cover because you are sort of the influencer in your community in your industry, Robert, because of your LinkedIn presence. So we definitely want to talk a little bit about that why it is important? Can you touch briefly on that? Why are you so much into LinkedIn?

Robert Johnson 32:22

Okay, very interesting. And this is really. This is really hit me hard this week because the benefits of what I have been doing for years and years have are starting to pay off. So it’s a long game. It’s not a short game. So I have for years and years and years, I have they accepted connections I’ve reached out, I’ve built a large group of connections with followers, but not as great as some but much greater than I ever imagined, really, for myself.

And the content that I post on my personal page is uplifting. I tend to think it is more is not necessarily inspirational, success-oriented, self-improvement-oriented, and simple. And that that’s all my personal page. And I’ve done that all you see, very few posts about what I do for a living on my personal page. Yes, that is absolutely 100% relationship-driven. This is where the aha moment that I have had over the last several months is that my six tests are on sale. It’s on getting customers and winning spades. It’s on that that aspect of it in my LinkedIn philosophy is I like connecting with people that think and feel like I did.

Sam Gupta 33:47


Robert Johnson 33:48

So these people that are attracted to the content that I post typically are the kind of people that I’d want to hang out with. Well, who are you going to have the most success in life in sales in business with, but somebody that is in your tribe, somebody that’s in your community? So you’re your influence. To influence them in sales, one way or another, is much easier.

I have had over the last two weeks. I’ve had probably six offline conversations with contacts that I’ve had with, like on LinkedIn for a long time, some of which do follow our company page. Yeah. And, and I see them on that the company side, and what they do lines up with what I do. I had a gentleman that I spoke to this week that reached out to me through LinkedIn, that builds bridges, highway bridges, railroad bridges, and they utilize cold form steel for the form.

And I’m like, I never even thought of it. And they need somebody to build those components. So you. It’s a tremendous opportunity that came about because I posted something inspirational. Initially, I invited him to look at our company page they did. And voila, here we are. So that’s been my philosophy. And that’s kind of where I’m at with, with how I use LinkedIn.

Sam Gupta 35:17

Yeah, that’s really interesting because I don’t know what your perception is, based on your industry the way you are seeing. So let’s say if you look at your colleagues, peers, other marketers that might be prevalent in your industry, what do you think are the approaching being done, right, because 90% of the cases, when I look at them, they are either posting feels content, the pages, and you know, things that nobody really wants to talk about on LinkedIn. Right. And you are taking a very different approach the way LinkedIn is supposed to be. So what is going to be your advice for your peers, for your colleagues that are approaching LinkedIn, or there may be me benefit by utilizing LinkedIn? So tell us your advice on that?

Robert Johnson 35:59

Yeah. Well, when it’s interesting, my specific advice about my industry, my peers varies from other people, obviously, and I’ll just touch the status briefly. The HR people, the recruiters, that kind of people in the content they’re posting on LinkedIn is spot on if they’re talking about they’re so because people are on LinkedIn looking for a job there. That’s what they’re doing as far as utilizing LinkedIn as a sales tool, from my peers to people that do what I do. Isn’t this, folks? LinkedIn is not what you do.

You don’t get on there just to post pictures of your jobs and, and you want people to use you as a source. That’s not what I poke if I post something on my personal page, just because it looks cool. Or it’s a project that I think people have seen a lot will identify with just those kinds of things. But I never have in my life looked at a link look at my LinkedIn feed and said, Oh, and the other thing that they use, I’ve never looked, I’ll finish that thought, I’ve never looked at it and been like, Oh, hey, I need to use those guys.

That video of them, you know, holding up as metal stud is interesting. Not at all. But yeah, if you’re, they’re going about it. There are other formats and other media that are better for that this isn’t YouTube. This isn’t. So, unfortunately, this is a relationship. LinkedIn is a relationship-based media platform. And unfortunately, as you well know, that many are on there just to see how many followers they can get. And, yeah, you know, that’s just some of that age. Wisdom will come in time.

Sam Gupta 37:44

Yeah. This is a very insightful discussion. Robert, do you have any last-minute closing thoughts?

Robert Johnson 37:49

Yeah. So as I had mentioned, I’m a more seasoned individual. And I’ve seen this. This process has come for a long time. There’s a lot of the older folks, the more seasoned labor forces that have kicked against technology and have kicked against social media have kicked against the advancements of all of those things that I’ve mentioned, and what all it can bring to you.

It has for me, as a more seasoned individual has if you’ll embrace it if you utilize it, if you will, work, those advantages, the wisdom that you’ve gained over all the years, that’s not related to all of that, combined with the technology and the advancements of technology will make you a superior, individualized, carrier salesman, a superior manager, a superior owner, instead of kicking against it, and rejecting.

So it’s all about embracing; it’s opened up a whole new world for me and me. I love new tech. I’m constantly looking for new techniques and new ways to use it and machinery and equipment, etc. So I guess that’s what I was saying this whole thing if you want to talk about growth, embrace the changes and use the wisdom to make the right decision.

Sam Gupta 39:18

Okay. I could not agree more. But my personal takeaway from this conversation is going to be in business. It’s all about relationships.

Robert Johnson 39:25


Sam Gupta 39:27

Thank you so much, Robert, for your time. This has been amazing. I’ve enjoyed it.

Robert Johnson 39:30

Thank you so much.

Sam Gupta 39:32

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey. I always pick up learnings from our guests, and hopefully, you learn something new today. If you want to learn more about Rob Robert, head over to Links and more information will also be available in the show notes.

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business. You might want to check other related episodes, including The interview with Chris Luecke, who touches on how manufacturers can augment their offerings by adding value-added and industry 4.0 Solutions. Also, the interview with Dave Griffith, where he discusses why manufacturers must look for low-hanging fruits when exploring the path of industry 4.0.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe and spread the word among folks with similar backgrounds. If you have any questions or comments about the show, please review and rate us on your favorite podcasting platform or DM me on any social channels. I’ll try my best to respond personally and make sure you get help. Thank you, and I hope to catch you on the next episode of the WBS podcast.

Outro 40:38

Thank you for listening to another episode of The WBS podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform, so you never miss an episode. For more information on growth strategies for SMBs using ERP and digital transformation, check out our community at We’ll see you next time.

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