TS: OK, so I’ve seen that you are now the Chairman and Executive Director of the Southwest Fastener Association. You were once the leader of the Young Fastener Professionals organization. And a couple years ago you were chosen as the Young Fastener Professional of the year and honored at the Vegas Show. And, you are still kind of a young guy in this industry, at least compared to me! So, I think it is about time we find out a little more about the “The Bearded Nut”, as you are known in the Twitter world. You ready for this?
Baron: Let’s do it!
TS: Most importantly, when is the last photo you have when you were without your distinctive long red beard?
Baron: My distinctive beard has slowly been getting long since I joined the industry. I think the last time there is record of me clean shaven would be my yearbook photo from my sophomore year of high school. I grew a goatee that year and it has been spreading ever since.
TS: Now, back to fasteners. How did you first get involved in the industry and how long have you been doing this?
Baron: My father and grandfather both worked for LFC in Arlington, Texas and then for Interstate Thread Products. I guess I was kind of born into the industry as I was around it my whole life. I grew up going to ITP Christmas lunches, holiday parties, etc. so I was familiar with the business. After college, I married my college sweetheart and got a job managing an inside sales team for a data company. My father-in-law was also in the fastener business and was a partner at Spring Bolt. When one of the Spring Bolt co-owners, Tim Malone, decided to retire my father-in-law wanted to bring on a sales guy to grow the business. He knew I was familiar with the industry and that I had managed a sales department with the data company so when he approached me about the position I knew it was time to jump into the fastener field. I started working at Spring Bolt in 2015
TS: What distinguishes Spring Bolt from other companies that do similar products.
Baron: A few things. The big one would be material knowledge; how to machine, heat treat, forge types of materials most people would have trouble with. Most exotic metals require heat treating and testing after you form and or machine them.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention lead time. About 30% of Spring Bolt’s business is rush orders. Our average lead time is 4 weeks, but on these rush orders the lead time usually ranges from one week to 1 hour depending on the customer’s needs.
TS: Talk a little bit about the oil and gas market. It is almost as distinct as the automotive industry is up in the Detroit area. At times, oil and gas seems like its own distinct industry niche yet products you make for the industry can be used in other industries.
Baron: The Oil patch is an industry of feast or famine. Depending on a lot of factors, political, environmental, both locally and globally. Right now, it is starting to pick back up.
One reason why you see crossover in parts is because there is crossover in who wrote the specs SAE or ASTM. For example, because of my geography I had to become an expert at ASTM A453 660B, but that means with just a few more steps I could become an expert at AMS-5732 A286. These two items are made up of the same elements and are heat treated the same way. In most ways they are identical if you know what you are doing. Because of instances like this we have been able to market ourselves across the nation instead of just across Houston.
TS: What are your professional aspirations? You have a whole lot of years left in this industry, what do you envision for yourself in the coming years?
Baron: To be “the most electrifying man in” the fastener industry. In all seriousness to make this a better industry. While heading up YFP I focused on training managers and really any fastener pro that would listen on how to retain young talent. And despite what some people tell you its not all about the money. Is it a factor? Hell yeah it is! But is it the driving force of the mass exodus so many industrial industries are seeing? No. They don’t feel heard, they are told to stay in their place while they are trying to work to get a spot at the table. You can buy younger talent with your wallet or with your actions, its up to you.
Well that was a bit of a soup box. At the end of the day I plan to make everything I associate with the best it can be, that means the industry, the company, and the associations.
TS: In the intro to this interview I mentioned your participation in the fastener industry associations. You have embraced participation and I think that has helped you to meet a lot of people more rapidly than a lot of younger people in the industry.
Baron: Associations are just like most things in this world, what you put in is what you get out. I have a tendency of jumping in feet first into things and the SFA is no exception.
TS: What is something about the industry that you observe that a guy my age does not?
Baron: I do not know if this is age specific. It falls under that “We’ve Always Done It This Way” quote. The industry has a habit of calling order-takers salespeople. I am not saying there is not a place for order-takers in the industry, they are certainly important. But if you are not actively hunting for accounts or actively growing accounts in some way, you are not in sales.
TS: You are very active at trade shows and often represent Spring Bolt at the shows. What are some of your observations about “fastener people”?
Baron: I don’t think I can add much that has not already been said by most people in the industry. Fastener people are the best, work hard play hard type people, and every other cliché you can think up when describing an industry of high functioning alcoholics, 😊 myself included. In all sincerity, I could not see myself in any other industry. There is a reason I use the hashtag #fastenerfamily and it is because that is exactly what this industry is.. a big ol’ family
TS: You’ve been doing this for a while now even though you are a younger guy. What changes in the industry have you noticed and what changes do you anticipate?
Baron: There are more companies in the industry that are starting to embrace the internet of things. Not just posting on social media but innovating their companies by utilizing the web. There for a while companies like Earnest Machine were a bit of an outlier. I’m glad to see they no longer have to carry the torch of technology by themselves.
In the future I would expect to see more companies like Initialize pop up. Companies that are the “Secondary Processors” of the intangible 21st Century.
Note from TS:
I have a regular column in Fastener Technology International (FTI) magazine, called 10 Minutes with the Traveling Salesman, which can be read online at www.fastenertech.com. Subscriptions to FTI, print and digital editions, are free-of-charge for fastener manufacturers, distributors and users as well as suppliers to the industry.”