Entrepreneurship Podcast post

High Standards with Eric Miller

George Grombacher February 23, 2023

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High Standards with Eric Miller

LifeBlood: We talked about the importance of high standards, dealing with uncertainty and disruption, professional ethics and standards, and building culture through consisten action, with Eric Miller, CoOwner of PADT, Engineer, 3D Printer, Speaker, Podcaster, and angel investor.  

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Eric Miller

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
What I’m left with is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong a powerful Eric Miller. Eric, are you ready to do this?

Eric Miller 0:08
Thanks for having me. I’m ready to go. Let’s do it.

george grombacher 0:11
Let’s go. Eric is a co owner of pad T their company that makes innovation work by providing engineering services and tools. He is an engineer, a writer, a 3d printer, Speaker podcaster angel investor. And he’s the man that helped me become a professional podcaster many years ago. Welcome back on Eric.

Eric Miller 0:31
Thank you for having me on. I always love to have chats, always, always walking away learning something and thinking about something a little bit differently. So it’s good, I

george grombacher 0:37
like it. Well tell us a little about your personal life some more about your work and tell us why you do what you do.

Eric Miller 0:44
So personal life wise, I have achieved empty nester status. And I think official empty nester status, like they’re not coming back this summer. You know, the first summer in college came home, pretty much he’s looking for a job and the other ones graduating, so it’s kind of nice, we’re adapting my wife and I are adapting. And, you know, it’s it’s kind of kind of nice, I have to say, I’ve got the entire upstairs to myself now. So it’s enjoyable. But that’s a big change in my personal life. Professionally, you know, I think just kind of dealing with all the change and trying to make heads or tails of everything that’s going on. Good and bad, right? We’ve been through COVID, we’ve been through the reaction to COVID. We’ve been through, you know, and I know we don’t agree on economic principles, but we cut taxes, and we dumped a shitload of money into the economy. And that caused things to go a little haywire inflation anybody. And it’s just a weird out there unpredictable politics are unpredictable. In and so just trying to hang on and make sense of the chaos.

george grombacher 1:59
Yeah. And, and your business has been growing pretty consistently,

Eric Miller 2:05
consistently, but unpredictably, kind of back to that chaos, right parts of our business that we saw, that we thought would do very well didn’t, and parts of our business that we were kind of like, let’s hope it is, okay, blew up. And again, it goes back to all these contrasting economic stimuli out there, and maybe more importantly, the motional business emotional stimuli, right. So people are making, there’s no such thing as a rational consumer, right? Whether it’s business to business or business to consumer, and they’re making decisions that I don’t understand, I don’t think they do, they’re panicking, they’re, they see, they see an opportunity that maybe isn’t there, but they don’t want to miss out, or they’re panicking because they think everything’s gonna go to hell. And it’s kind of all over the place. And so we really don’t know where things are going. But they’re going a lot of what I love is huge increase in our business around space. So both government and commercial space. And as a as a nerd, and an engineer, and a Star Trek fan, and all those things. It’s wonderful to see the amount of growth in the space industry and and see how it’s affecting other industries as well. Seeing it trickle around and do things. And then the other area that we’re seeing a lot of growth in is kind of the modernization of transportation around electrification. And kind of getting back into the hydrogen economy that we were begun that 1520 years ago. And it’s kind of coming back. Because in the long run, it’s hydrogen. That’s the answer, not electrical. And so we’re really excited about that. And really good to be good to be a part of that change in that trend. And hopefully, companies can learn how to do things more efficiently as they upgrade their, whether it’s an airplane or a car or a scooter, or even a bicycle.

george grombacher 3:57
hydrogen powered scooters,

Eric Miller 3:59
or some day, right, the Jetsons upcoming Jetsons had everything right. We’re there. We’re gonna get there. I want a hydrogen powered vest, but okay, there it is. Yeah,

george grombacher 4:12
I like it. All right. So the, the assumption stereotype of an engineer is very, very logical. Do you think that that’s fair?

Eric Miller 4:21
I will say there’s two kinds of there’s there’s two kinds of engineers. There are creative engineers, and there’s the obsessive compulsive engineers, logical engineers. And, you know, both both, like solving problems, both like analyzing things, but the logical one tends to, to like to stick with the math and stick stay away from emotion and stay away from creativity. And this is the this is the process. We’re gonna write down the process. We’re gonna follow the process, and they’re very important. And then there’s the creative ones, the You know, the people that Steve Jobs is and the Elon Musk’s of the world climb on to and and build empires around?

george grombacher 5:09
And talking about dealing with all this change hanging on, right? Like, oh my gosh, we expect it’s gonna go great here. But it goes the opposite this that the other thing. How do you think of who you are? How much engineering are you doing on a day to day basis versus being the leader? Being the Steve Jobs versus the person who’s making the actual widget thing?

Eric Miller 5:36
Yeah, I need to find somebody other than Steve Jobs. I’m not that. Yeah, very little, which, which is a shame I do a little bit. Every once in a while, I’ll be on a meeting as a manager, and then it’ll get, it’ll get into the weeds a little bit. And I jumped right in. And it’s kind of fun, did that yesterday with a customer. And talked about some kind of esoteric simulation stuff, which I love. But in general, I’m more on the operations side of things I’m lucky in. So I run the consulting team here at bat. So we have three verticals, we have a sales and support team, we have a consulting team, and then we’ve got a manufacturing team. And we have three owners, each of us manages a certain profit center, I do the consulting team, I have I, you know, lesson learned in business, hire somebody to work for you, that’s better than you. And so Tyler Shaw is our VP of Engineering and and so he does the leadership stuff wonderfully. So I can focus more on strategic, I can focus more on building pipeline, and then on the operation side of running the company as a whole. So a lot, I do a lot of that facilities and HR and IT and things like that.

george grombacher 6:52
Not and going now, you know, I don’t know where we are, if, if we’re past tough times, or we’re just in a different tough time kind of a thing. But COVID Looking back on on these three or four years or 10 years, however long it’s been, what, what did you do? Well, and what did you say a while, you know what I need to sort of up my game in certain areas, if any.

Eric Miller 7:21
I gotta say, we did a really good job. We’re lucky in that this kind of, you know, virtual communication was something we’ve been using it for, for, you know, probably over a decade before COVID hit. Because we have so many customers around the world and so many large aerospace customers, they’ve been using these kinds of tools for a long time. And we already had a considerable number of employees that were remote. So we were able to adapt fairly quickly. And we are already communicating through my biggest fear was losing culture and losing connection. And so we really, really focused on doing that, like we, every Friday, we watched an old black and white TV show, I would go find something on YouTube, like Lucy or iron side, or, you know, some some cheesy Lone Ranger or whatever it was. And we would just eat our lunch and watch that together. And not everybody attended. But those that did, it was kind of nice, in some ways, because we were forced to deal with getting together, we did. Now that that pressure is off, we’re kind of struggling with it. We’re not doing it as much. So I think we did that really well. What we probably didn’t do well enough, is recognizing, and maybe maybe nobody knew how long it was going to be. So we kept on making temporary adjustments. And they’ve eventually become permanent. And even though they don’t need those anymore. It’s kind of big for many employees become the preferred way of doing their job. And many of our more importantly, many of our customers like we we’d have two or three customers visit a day before COVID. And now it’s we get two or three a week. Maybe they don’t they wanted to come they wanted to meet people face to face, they wanted to see the equipment, they wanted to see the computers. They don’t care anymore. So I think we we should have accepted that sooner. We kept kind of kept up the infrastructure, thinking people were going to come back and maybe they will. But we got a really nice demo room that that basically is dusty. So we’ll see how it changes. I’m trying to think there’s anything else that we did wrong that one of the biggest struggles we had is it was politicized. Right. And so being a logical engineer, we just kind of dealt with it the facts. That’s what the CDC says this is recommendation. This is the state. This is what the state law says we’re just going to follow we basically just copy and pasted what was put out there? Some people didn’t think that was enough. Just as many people thought that was way too much, and I don’t think I understood how emotionally invested people became, in the politicization of it, you know, wearing a mask became a statement about who you were. Right? And which is a shame. But it did. And, and, and people would get snitty If someone wasn’t wearing their mask. And by the same token, if someone wore a mask, you know, you’re a loser. And it, it was not we have good people, so it never got unpleasant. But there was tension there that I wish we could have found a way to handle and kind of be a bit more mature about it across the board.

george grombacher 10:49
Yeah, well, when you figure that one out, Eric, you’re gonna let the rest of us now?

Eric Miller 10:56
I just don’t know. It’s, it’s yeah, it was it was unpleasant. And, and we were all just emotional racks. Right? Well, regardless of how you dealt with it, it was just difficult time. And, and some of our employees lost family members from COVID. And that really brought home and and made it really emotional. It didn’t change which side of that political debate they were on. Funny enough, but it it really did. Make it real for us. And yeah, unpleasant. Pleasant.

george grombacher 11:32
Do you think that that was a sign of that, that that reaction of sort of taking sides on it master stupid master really important? Is that just the human experience? Or was this evidence of sort of the canary in the coal mine that things are getting worse? Is that or is it just the way it’s always been?

Eric Miller 11:54
Well, I think I think it was even worse than that, I think it was, masks are stupid, and you hate people, because you’re not wearing a mask. I mean, it was like that, it was like you want it, you want people to die, because you’re not wearing a mask. And I’m a mask where I totally, I’m on that side of the camp. And so I I plan on wearing them when I get colds in the future. It’s a nice thing to do. But the I think it was always there. And I think that we, after World War Two, until maybe a decade or so ago, maybe a little bit longer, we kind of lived in a golden age, where we kind of live by these principles that we were taught in kindergarten, right? About listening to others, and being kind and giving people space and, and helping each other and all those wonderful things. You know, the golden rule, I’m a big golden rule person, I think a lot of people kind of live by the golden rule, they may not agree with wearing masks or not wearing masks, but they felt like you know, I want to be treated the way that kind of got thrown out the window. I think that’s, I think that’s the normal. I think, I think being kind of selfish, petty people is normal. And we got away from it. And we kind of drifted back. And maybe psychologists will figure out why I think I think it’s easy to be a good person when the standard of living is going up for everybody. And everybody’s got a shot at the golden ring. And everybody feels they got a chance. And maybe part of it is there’s a significant part of the population, it feels like things are getting worse and not better. And maybe that’s the reaction. I don’t know. But it’s definitely I’ve never seen people get so angry with each other over things that in the past it just be like, I don’t agree with you. Right.

george grombacher 13:53
It’s interesting, in terms of something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are, are are having holding yourself to personal standards. And it strikes me that you in your business, operate by standards all the time out of necessity, otherwise, people will probably die. Yeah.

Eric Miller 14:15
Yeah, it’s an interesting thing. The Canadians, they do a lot of cool things. And one of the cool things they do in engineering is when you graduate with an engineering degree in Canada, you join the order of the ring. If you ever meet a Canadian engineer, they’ve got a little steel ring around their pinky. It is made from steel of a bridge that failed because the engineer didn’t check his calculations and he divided by two instead of multiple he I can’t remember the story but they they built the bridge people were on it, it fell people die. And so you put it on your writing hand so not that we have that we write anymore, but I guess I should probably hang it if I had wanted to hang it from my computer, but on my keyboard but the ideas while you’re doing calculations, you remember that right? I thought that was really poignant way of pointing out that, you know, what we do does matter sometimes. I mean, we just finished a project that for a local inventor that was a dog toy for PetSmart. Right? It’s really cool. Blue ball, helping her get this shape just right. And I’m not sure if that’s life threatening if we do that. But at the same time, we’re working on a valve for rocket engine, right. And if that valve fails, that rocket could blow up. And it’s an unmanned rocket, but it could lay on on somebody’s house or something like that. Right? So, yeah, it’s there, it’s real. You have to keep that in mind, you have to have a little bit of, you know, ethics in mind. And what’s what’s the impact of what I’m doing? And why is it important? And it’s, it’s, it’s hard sometimes, because that’s why I kind of like the ring that the Canadians did, because it reminded us you, we love the process. And we get kind of wrapped up in the process. And we forget that, oh, this is a medical device, you know, and it could cause harm or, or save a life. And it’s important. And even if we weren’t doing stuff like that, I still think it’s important. Maybe I take too much from what I learned in kindergarten to heart, but I think I do think doing it’s one of our core philosophies is to is to, we started the company, before we started the company, we came up with some core philosophies we wanted to base the company on and because we were coming out of a soulless corporate nightmare. We wanted to where the where shareholder value quarterly shareholder value was the only thing that mattered and it wasn’t hidden that was stated that, you know, we wanted to do things with integrity. And, you know, it’s new employees, we kind of brainwash them around that as well and, and have have said to customers, we’re not going to do this, right. Because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. And it’s tough, because they’re paying you, but you’re gonna do the right thing.

george grombacher 17:11
I love that order of the ring. Yeah. And that was amazing.

Eric Miller 17:15
Yeah, yeah. I you can even get one in the US. There’s a couple of organizations to do in the US. But I just thought that was super clever.

george grombacher 17:24
Yeah. the foresight to grab some of the metal and a lot of it. Yeah.

Eric Miller 17:31
You know, how much is still there as a good question. When you die, you’re supposed to send your ring back and they know the pot. Yeah. Wow.

george grombacher 17:40
That’s amazing. Yeah.

Eric Miller 17:42
Canadians have time for that sort of thing. They’re not as focused on achieving things as we are. And they’re a little more thoughtful about life.

george grombacher 17:51
Well, yes. And I mean, you talking about how you were super intentional about watching the black and white video on Fridays. And when COVID started, and we were getting locked down, you started a networking group just virtually, I missed that. Lots of people in Phoenix. So that to me, says, Eric is a guy who appreciates consistency, and scheduling and create an opportunity for people to come together.

Eric Miller 18:22
I’ll tell you the origin story on that, because it’s a good one. A friend of mine who is a facilitator for corporate, you know, team building, right, and he’s the he’s the, he’s the guy that brings the flip charts and talk about how you can make work a better world, right? And it died, right? COVID he couldn’t do that anymore. So he’s like, I gotta go online. And so he called mature friends and former customers and said, you know, what can we play doing one of these sessions that I do with, say, like, its biggest customers, Nike? And so we did, and one of the things he said was, what is your COVID nickname? And I thought, he told us the questions beforehand, and I’ve come up with something very, very clever and very impressive. And at the last minute, when he asked me, I said, the connector, just out of the blue. So what I really want to do when we’re locked down, and it’s, I want I know a lot of people. And if I can connect folks, I can do that. And so the next day i i came up with the idea of doing the virtual networking. And I went through a lot of very ugly iterations, because the technology wasn’t quite there yet, but ended up and also people only knew how to use Zoom. And I was using Microsoft and it was it was painful. But eventually it went well. It was something that everybody looked forward to every week. And then when we could leave our houses I thought we’d keep doing it. Nope, nobody wants everybody’s busy. Doesn’t anymore. But when you’re stuck at home and it’s watch another series on Netflix or go chop talk with people upstairs. People would go upstairs.

george grombacher 20:04
Yeah. Well, I appreciate that and good. That makes little sense in the world. And that you certainly aren’t what was the clever, super profound name that you’d come up with? Eric, who

Eric Miller 20:15
was the connector? The one before? Yeah, I don’t remember. Okay. I forgot. And I wrote about it in the business journal and I went through my notes and I swear I wrote it down somewhere on a piece of paper with my desk and I think because, because I was very impressed with myself, right? Yeah, and I totally forgot what it was. Oh,

george grombacher 20:37
that’s a very very human thing to do right there. I love it. Well, Eric, thank you so much for coming back on where can level where can people learn more about you? How can they how can they connect with with you?

Eric Miller 20:48
So the company the sign above which is which just happens to be placed right above my head our company is PA d t. And you can google us that way. Or you can look go to our website, which is PADTI NC PDT inc.com You can look find out more about me by going to the to the to the LinkedIn, and look up Eric Miller PDT is the best way to find me. There’s a lot of Eric Miller’s on there. And even in Phoenix and then if you subscribe to the Business Journal or you don’t just go to Business Journal, you should. If you do business in Arizona, you should subscribe to the Business Journal and read my monthly articles. I just finished a great series on places to go and visit in the state like touristy or business wise, it was a lot of fun to write that and some good suggestions in there like where to where to do business meeting around town, just finished that the six stories and then I read about all sorts stuff that some of the stuff we talked about today I write about on there, so do check out the article.

george grombacher 21:49
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show Eric your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to padtinc.com or just enter PDT into your favorite search engine. LinkedIn, Eric E. Ric Miller the ADT. You’ll find them that way. And then if you are a Phoenician here in the Arizona area, check out the Business Journal and check out Eric’s monthly article that he does.

Eric Miller 22:17
It’s gonna take your wrench always enjoy. Have a great rest of the year.

george grombacher 22:21
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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