Here is the first of our guest blogs on the topic of how you entered the gear trade. Chris Trochelman (pictured above, far left) would be classed as a “legacy” entrant who put aside other plans to join the family firm.
Trojon Gear, Inc. has been in continuous operation since 1957. My grandfather started the company that year, eventually passing control to my two uncles and father in the 80’s (not pictured). As you can see our team was smaller then, and in the early 90’s I was able to start learning the trade myself. My father eventually left the company to me in 2014, after his life’s work became too much for him in his old age.
My gear story began in high school (98-02’) when I began helping out on some manual machines and in the front/back offices. While I was interested in the trade, the prevalent idea that to make something of yourself back then – college was needed. I don’t believe that is the case, but I am lucky to have had a family that could afford to send me. After a bachelor’s of business finance was obtained at the University of Kentucky, some valuable management and financial operations experience obtained in the private sector, and then a master’s in business administration from Wright State University – I came back home to Trojon Gear.
Since 2014, I’ve been president and owner, working daily to increase morale, hire/train/invest in my personnel, and grow the business through modernization, documentation, streamlined processes, and systematic upgrades. We’ve increased sales 20 percent since I joined as president and purchased three new machines. Our workforce is a team of 11 that I’d put up against any company triple our size!
Looking back, my personal learning curve was greatest in terms of where to focus, how to get involved in the industry’s best practices and network, and my overall strategy for business operations (a 10-year plan). With the help of some grant initiatives provided by the State of Ohio, I was able to leverage Lean suggestions from companies like TechSolve who provide consulting work at the reduced cost with Ohio’s help.
I spoke to anyone and everyone in the industry and set lunch meetings with everyone I could find that might provide suggestions in terms of owning a business, running a business, and managing personnel. I developed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that greatly helped us focus on what was important. We broke down minimum requirements for sales, expenses, and miscellaneous, and further broke that down to what that meant for quotes, purchases, miscellaneous on a weekly basis in order to meet those monthly and yearly goals.
My greatest achievement has been the team we have today, after many hirings/firings/retirements in my tenure already. It is not easy to find experienced machinists, especially in this market where many companies are booming and have been hiring themselves.
I wish I could do more to increase awareness for high school students, but we are such a small shop I feel there is little I can do since we only hire maybe one person each year and have little time spent marketing and getting into the community for events. The industry is growing and becoming more tech-advanced. Critical skills today are much more programming and management-related, than they are manual. The opportunities abound in the gear industry for smart and ambitious individuals.
What the world needs to understand is that making incredible machined products for our customers in an amazing variety of applications, is something that can provide so much more job satisfaction than some of the academic desk jobs being pushed through American high schools and colleges.
(Interested in sharing your story about how you first became involved in the gear industry? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)