INDUSTRY: ENGINEERING/MANUFACTURING
YEAR FOUNDED: 2011
PARTNER COLLEGE: LONG BEACH CITY COLLEGE, COHORT 20

How did 10KSB help you?
10KSB focused our business on tackling strategic challenges. We were operating on a very tactical level when we first joined the program and couldn’t imagine not being involved with all aspects of daily operation. We always knew we had to articulate what we wanted our culture to feel like and build and document our process maps, but it was difficult to commit quiet time to attempt such consequential projects. That’s why spending time with the instructors and my cohort eased me into the right mindset to crystalize important things like our company’s vision and values. The work I did on those Fridays has been far-reaching and continues to sit at the center of our growth story.

Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced in your business.
One common challenge in our industry is the recruitment, training, and retention of skilled labor. Few vocational schools offer relevant coursework for our manufacturing processes, so most of the training and validation takes place on-site and on the job. And because there is no accurate way to assess for a skill the employee does not yet possess, we sometimes discover a new team member is unable to successfully on-board many months into our relationship. To combat this, we are investing in a more formalized apprenticeship program where the development of these specialized skills can feel more like an investment from both parties. With formal training paths, transparent expectations, and progress milestones, we’re feeling confident about scaling our team.

What do you enjoy about being a small business owner?
I love how confident I feel about my place in this world. As the owner-operator of SAGE Millimeter, no one else on earth knows more about our products, our team, or our story. I am uniquely suited for the role in which I serve, and other owner-operators should feel the same about the businesses they are leading and growing. Even though there are tough days, that quiet peacefulness of belonging is still one of my favorite things about entrepreneurship.

Since graduating from the 10KSB Program, is there an accomplishment or goal you’re particularly proud of achieving?
After graduation, one of our most urgent initiatives was to build our leadership team. We were skeptical that we could find leaders who understood our industry and our way of doing business, but we knew that we needed to try. We were unsuccessful at first, and the failures we experienced felt like giant setbacks. Not only did they affect cashflow, but they were detrimental to morale. However, over a year later, we have brought on some very high-impact leaders to join our leadership team. They have helped us to pivot our culture and practice our values. With their help, we have implemented many team-focused changes. We doubled our benefits spend, committed more time to team development, and became a more structured company. The changes to the business are palpable, and we thank our new leaders every day for helping us create a company that is all about the people.