Entrepreneurship Podcast post

Quality Manufacturing with Bew White

George Grombacher March 6, 2022

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Quality Manufacturing with Bew White

LifeBlood: We talked about quality manufacturing, starting a company and learning invaluable lessons from Ralph Lauren, how to stay nimble and current, and how to have a successful 50 year marriage, with Bew White, President and CEO of Summer Classics.  

Listen to learn the six qualities you must have to become an entrepreneur!

You can learn more about Bew at SummerClassicsHome.com, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well. 

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Bew White

Bew White

Episode Transcript

ome on one leopard. This is Georgie and the time is right. welcome today’s guests strong and powerful view white view. Are you ready to do

Bew White 0:18
this? Yes.

george grombacher 0:21
All right, let’s go. View is the president and CEO of summer classics, their pioneering outdoor living company. He’s been named entrepreneur of the year he’s received lifetime achievement awards. He is the subject of the biography, his summer classic, The Blue White story. You tell us a little by personal last more about your work and why you do

Bew White 0:42
what you do. Wow, that’s a lot. That’s go. Osborne should start there. No. I guess I’ll start in New York. I moved to New York in 1972 in the fabric business, and I called on a Broughton yet one of the things that happened, this pretty relevant to current day is there was huge inflation during that period. And much higher than it is that people were complaining about today with, you know, teens, and 20s, you know, and interest rates got up to 17%, or something like that. What you couldn’t really borrow for a house. And I got to New York, and I was a salesperson selling fabric and the I went to meet with Vice President, I’m like fired up to sell fabric. He said, Well, this is a little different. We’re on allotment. I was like What’s allotment? He said, Well, we tell the customers how much they can get. We’re sold out for two years. I kind of went well, that’s not like selling doesn’t see why selling to me. Yeah. So. So I started with that. And then then we had certain things I could sell. And then it was very successful selling and I think probably my most successful relationship though is marriage, which is, you know a lot about what’s in the book is is about my wife, or my wife with my wife, or my near death experience with my wife. So that’s, that’s a large portion of what’s in the book.

george grombacher 2:28
shall meet New York.

Bew White 2:30
It will I great wife, great wife, amazing wife, amazing life. That’s kind of how I say.

george grombacher 2:37
I love it. And did you meet in New York? Or how did you know how that relationship started?

Bew White 2:42
We met in college. This is interesting, because this first time she told me the story. met in college, we started a we stopped dating and now sour with one of my fraternity brothers that had cattle prodded me during while I was doing push ups. I’ll do what a cattle prod is to us like cows like oh my god, she’s with him. And I said, Why did I quit dating her? She’s so cute. I walked up to her. He walked away and I walked up to her and I kind of walked away from my date and sort of saying, Would you date me again? And she said yes. And then we started dating. We got what’s called lava Laird and return to you language. And then it’s lava layer, pin. engaged, marry that kind of found, I guess. But then I took her out one night, and she’s acting really weird. And I was like, What is wrong with you? And they ignored it. 70 Finally, I took her back home. I was like, We came have a date. This is crazy. You’re acting really goofy. And she said her old boyfriend who called and asked to marry her. I kind of go well, that’s a really short conversation. No, I’m dating Billy or B and hang up. And she said, Well, I’m in Vietnam. We saw my father died. And I don’t know what to do. Like so. So what are we going to do here? She says, I’m going to take both of you. I was like, great. He wants to marry you. I want to date you. I’m like, I’m toast to your have no chance. And so, so she sees me. So I finally said, I’m done with this. I’ve got to get this woman out of my mind. I’m gonna start dating other people. I started dating one of her sorority sisters. And she saw me movie theater right after Christmas. And got extremely jealous and dumped the other guy and said, Okay, I picked you. So, and she didn’t tell me that until I’m working on this book. And she tells me the story. I’m like going really? Well. He never I was like, wow, that’s an important part of our writing. So anyway, it was a it’s kind of a cool thing.

george grombacher 4:54
And so how long have you been married?

Bew White 4:57
It’ll be 50 years and July. No,

george grombacher 5:02
not at all. Yeah, 50 years in July. So, you’ve, you’ve had this wonderful career in business, and it’s wonderful marriage to this amazing woman. What are the three lines between those two? Are they the same? Are they super different?

Bew White 5:21
Well, I’d say I said through line is probably relationships. So So building relationships in business or life, whether it’s your friends, or your colleagues or your, your business, some people you buy from your vendors are very important for us. So I set up the company based on I had called on Ralph Lauren, when I was in New York, and he was just getting started. And it was a really different business model than anybody else we work with, because we were calling what’s called cutters. These are people that cut fabric and sew into jeans or clothing, apparel. And back then everything was made in the United States. And so you had all these plants, all of the sites making apparel, that all this overseas stuff, what didn’t happen until really the late 80s and 90s, late 90s in China for the most part. And so, when I called him, I was like, how does this work, because you don’t really make anything great. And he’s like, No way, we serve everything out. But we work on branding, now building the brand, and what things look like, and then we have our specs, and we have people that make stuff for us. But what it allows us to do is move with the market so we can get into any kind of product, and move with the mark on White Man, that sounds great. And then when I got into selling when I became a recognized sales rep, in the late 80s, early 90s, and, you know, I’ve been represent a factory that made a certain product, and then the market would change. And they come to me, and I’m like, why aren’t you selling our products you’re selling so much before, you know, say I would say, well, the markets change, I’m selling this now make that I’ll sell that, or you know, so we can’t make that our factory makes aluminum furniture we need, we can’t make steel or wood or wherever the markets gone. And I kept going or somebody needs to do with the morning and follow the market and get people to make their product like Ralph Lauren was doing. Nike is this way Apple is this way, if you look at what’s happened since then. So So then, when I started my company, I wanted to get off the road. And so I started my company, I’ve used that basis, I’m going to follow the market. And I would get really big with a supplier and I’d say, Look, if the market moves to something you’re not willing to make or can’t be competitive on, I’m moving, don’t get mad at me. Because I’m going to go where the market goes. And as a result, I moved from making everything in United States, to Chile to Mexico, to now it’s China Indonesia, of course, we were making about 30% of what we would sell in the United States, but we’re also the largest importer in the state of Alabama. So so we make India not not very much in India and China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines primarily.

george grombacher 8:27
what a what a piece of learning from from, from Ralph, they’re, like, amazing.

Bew White 8:34
I didn’t know that I would never use that. But it’s just kind of stored in the back of my brain. And when I got going, I was like, you know, I need to do it like that. Nobody’s nobody’s. And then all my competitors were factories, there were I call stuck in a box, you know, this, I have a box and it makes this amount of product and it makes this product pretty much kind of stick to what that is. And then the only way and this is particularly relevant now because we have a crazy amount of order activity. And if you have a box, you have to make a decision or to increase production, power more people add a second shift for a really big decision, increase the size of my box, double the size of my box, buy another box to increase production. And that’s a big investment and big decision in almost all of my competitors have decided not to do that. So what happens when they get all these orders, double the amount of orders you typically would get. All that happens is they increase their lead times so on my competitors already sold out through the year. They don’t have any production. We’re primarily in outdoor furniture but we sell into furniture do that most of these people are sold out for 20 weeks at least some of them are sold out until next December. And so if you About you’re going to get out there furniture and you wanted to buy their brand. They go, Well, you can get it, but you can’t get it till a year. And it’s really, it’s, I think it’s kind of really, the season hadn’t started yet, but when it does, I’m gonna go on, this is gonna be a very interesting season for us because we still have product and most of our competitors don’t, don’t have any delivery.

george grombacher 10:21
Fascinated. So how, when is you are paying attention to the market? And you say, Okay, I love you partner vendor, but when the market moves on going to be, you know, moving towards this style, furniture? How do you recognize that and then get everything moving fast enough to actually be able to meet the need?

Bew White 10:50
Well, it’s particularly difficult now, because of COVID, you can’t go over space anymore, and research suppliers. And we’re in the We’re incredibly fortunate position because we have set up international VP and his associates and they go look at factories, even though we’re not there and zoom, I mean, Zoom has really helped. So we can go into the factory without actually being there. So number one saves us a ton of money, because we’re, we had somebody in chat almost all the time, or Asia all the time. And now we have nobody there, you can’t even go, you know, so. And then we open to new factories, and not without even being there. So it’s really, and so we’ve increased our capacity by 100 containers a month, which is 1200 presenters, he has a lot of stuff. So we were able to, we’re able to manipulate that to increase our production. Without the investment I was talking to you about about building a factory. So it’s really, it’s been incredible, frankly, I’m amazed by the home, that we’ve been able to do this, because our other factories were unwilling to increase production anymore. They’re like, well, this slows down, I’m gonna be stuck with all these people don’t have any machinery and equipment, and I just don’t want to supply increased production any more than I already have.

george grombacher 12:16
So you were able to go out and find new people who would had capacity, whatever it is at the current level, they just, you know, someday all of it. Nice. Fascinating. And so I imagine that that process has gotten easier. Just and let’s just let’s assume that the COVID had happened and you’re over your you’ve got your boots on the ground? Was it? Is it significantly easier to do that today than it was 30 years ago?

Bew White 12:49
Or maybe college standpoint it is. But I’d say otherwise, we would have probably sent the people in to start with to say go look at this factory and see if they’re capable of making our level of product. Because if you look at the way Asia was set up for the masses, it was set up for the Walmarts of the world. And we’re making high end product. So when we when we’d go into a factory, we work with them on price, and they were going like that’s really expensive. Your paint, we’ve been using $5 paint a pound tank, and you want to use $20 pound paint? Yes, what’s gonna increase the price dramatically, and we’re like, we’re okay with that. We just need we need it to last outside? Well, you’re a perfect example in Phoenix, where the sun kills everything. You’re you’re probably the scenario we use the most as far as our test regulations. For you the so eight, you were testing for eight years, without starting to change color in Phoenix, in Arizona. I mean, that’s kind of our thing. You can put this outside in Arizona, and it’ll won’t start and we guarantee it for five, but it’s really tested right? Without starting to change color, which is kind of a big deal. Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. I can certainly speak from that. So the whole theory of the company was set up to that you’d have your outdoor furniture for 15 years. And number one, you’d like the way it looked. And number two, you go I want to stop 15 years in and still looks like knit. And that was I always say it was gonna take a really long time to work because I needed the consumers to tell their friends. They need to buy this that even though it’s expensive, it’s worth it because it lasts so long. And then the other problem was how do you design products that people will like, today and still like 20 years, I kind of want to I kinda want to design stuff that makes Not like what they have. I’m saying, the goal is to make the soap much cooler, so much better looking bar, that when they come back in the store, they go well, my stuff looks really does look really good. Yeah. So they’re trying to say I want to throw it away. Because it still looks good, right? Or give it to my kids faces.

george grombacher 15:20
Yeah. I love it. That’s a I mean, that’s the same way that I think a lot of people think about the Ralph Lauren brands is that it’s just it’s so high quality, and you can keep it forever, but there’s always new stuff coming out. So you want to get that also? Yeah.

Bew White 15:41
I think our we do that on fabric, as well in fabric or wait, we design our own fabrics. So that’s a really important part of what we do cars. Let’s say you’re buying an outdoor sofa, the thing you’re gonna see the most is the cushion. So we’re really, really focused on making them making the fabric look really good.

george grombacher 16:05
Make sense? Boom, the people are ready for your difference making tip, what do you have for them?

Bew White 16:12
Well, I kind of touched on a little bit, but I’d say if your is your audience entrepreneurs, because it is I think my biggest tip is is or for people that think they would like to be an entrepreneur, there’s six qualities, you need to have to do that. And if you don’t have all of them, or if you and your partner don’t have three each or six of them, then I would say don’t do it. And it’s a visionary, passionate, driven, problem solver. This is a big one, the risk taker. A lot of people, when I talk about this, a lot of people I hit that when they go like, Well, I’m a risk taker. Now I would go like, Hey, I used to put up my house every year for 11 years, I take all the equity out of my house. So you get a loan, but you got to get a home equity loan. So I would take the entire part of my home equity loan out of my house, put it in the company, because I couldn’t borrow enough money to finance it during certain times of the year season. And I was going like, Man, this is never gonna work, you know, but you know, that’s a big, that’s a big deal. Most people I’m not, I think most people would not want to do them responsible as another one. And that’s it. I mean, visionary passionate Problem Solver driven risk taker responsible. So if you have those six qualities, you know, you can be enough you can have your own business and, and probably in the risk taker thing because I had a problem. I have an MBA in the States. And I made a $30 million mistake one time. And most people would probably walk away from the end that book, I had a $20 million wine with Royal Bank of Scotland and I started or Bank of Scotland got in trouble. And they started trying to get their money back from here. And I was like, during the Great Recession, and I was like, Man, this is going to be the end of the year. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. And so it’s also pushing through, I think there’s something called Grit, you know, pushing through extremely difficult situations that you’ve got to have in order to not give up. Yeah. And if you’ve got that use, if you don’t have it, you need to do something. My answer was prayer. I’m afraid all the time. You know, like, like, I always say, I didn’t need an amphetamine to stay awake during the great recession because I couldn’t sleep. I was so thinking about work and pray about what I could do. What can I do to fix this helped me Give me wisdom, you know, to figure it out. I got through it. And then I came out the other side and turned out incredible on the other side.

george grombacher 19:12
Well, I think that that is great stuff that definitely gets come up. The six qualities is vision. You need passion and need to be driven and to be a problem solver, a risk taker responsible and one extra. And that is grit. Love it will be you thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? We’re gonna work and they get a copy of summer classic, The Blue White story.

Bew White 19:37
One thing I didn’t talk about is that it opens with me almost dying. And then going through that experience. I had five blood clots in my lungs, and one to Pablo i learned a blood clot in your lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, any of those places brain can kill you like Well these things are like bullets, you know? So it kind of that’s the opening of the book goes into the I’m in the hospital almost and then what happens and then it kind of reverts back to that story I told you about college where I met my wife and the capital essay it has cattle prods angels so I’ll qualify that with my wife. Hookers not with me. Okay, anyway that’s make get people interested in reading. Amazon obviously you get it on Amazon and in my roommate in college, was an actor producer director and he reads it on Audible for Amazon. He’s pretty good. I call him I said sounds like you’re crying and certain sections on there. Are you acting or he said are we really crying? He’s like well, what part are you talking about it okay, you acting so and view y.com You can go there and they’ll they’ll take you right to it. BTW will come talk to this blue white.com White why T

george grombacher 21:10
Perfect. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did, she’ll view your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Blue White calm, it’s B W. W h i t.com. Pick up a copy of a summer classic the view white story wherever you buy your books or the Amazon. Thanksgiving you.

Bew White 21:30
Thank you, George. Appreciate nice talking to you.

george grombacher 21:33
Likewise, and until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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