Tactical Insights for Management with Anders Gidlund of TruckVault

About This Episode

In today’s episode of Tactical Business, host Wade Skalsky sits down with Anders Gidlund of TruckVault. Discover the journey of TruckVault’s CEO, Anders, as he reflects on the evolution of the business from humble beginnings to a thriving enterprise. Anders shares insights on the challenges and triumphs of building a successful team-driven organization, emphasizing the importance of adaptability and staying true to core values. If you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes of scaling a business and navigating market dynamics, this conversation is a must-watch!

Insights In This Episode

  • Business success isn’t always about rapid, meteoric growth; it often entails consistent, incremental progress and a focus on doing the right things consistently
  • Adapting to changes in vehicle designs and technologies requires creative problem-solving and innovation to ensure product compatibility and customer satisfaction
  • Vertical integration can optimize supply chain efficiency and control costs, supporting scalability and market expansion
  • Custom-built products offer a competitive advantage by providing tailored solutions to meet specific customer needs and preferences.

About Tactical Business

Tactical Business is the weekly business show for the firearms industry. The podcast features in-depth interviews with the entrepreneurs, professionals and technologists who are enabling the next generation of firearms businesses to innovate and grow.

Episode Transcript

Wade: Welcome to the Tactical Business Show. I’m your host, Virginia Beach based firearms entrepreneur and copywriter Wade Skalsky. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the firearms industry. We’ll speak with successful firearms industry entrepreneurs about their experiences building their companies, leaders and legislators who are shaping the industry, and tech executives whose innovations will reshape the future of the firearms industry. Let’s get after it. Welcome to the Tactical Business Podcast. I am your host Wade Skalsky, and our interview series continues today. We’re speaking with Anders Gidlund of TruckVault. Anders, how are you doing today, sir?

Anders: I’m really good. Wait. How are you doing?

Wade: I’m good, I’m good. That’s a strong Scandinavian name from my people back in North Dakota.

Anders: Yeah, I was actually born in Sweden, though I grew up here in the States, so, like, I get that a lot. Do you speak.

Wade: Swedish?

Anders: Unfortunately, as my mother would say, I do not.

Wade: Well, we all can’t be perfect, right? So. Well, I’m really excited to talk to you, I think, and we were talking a little bit in the pre-interview before we got started about TruckVault, and it made me miss my truck and just some of the really cool stuff you guys got going on. But before we get into the specifics, can you tell me how you got involved with the company, your origin story, and what was the path to where you are now?

Anders: Well, I graduated college in 2008, which is just like the perfect absolute time, I think, to enter the workforce out here. So I was just casting around, just to try and find any kind of job or anything like that. And I found this little job application for this little company down here in Skagit Valley, and it was really an entry level sales job, and I was lucky enough to get it. And it was literally the the sort of the bottom of the totem pole that you could possibly be in sales. I think my first, my first duty here was literally folding tri folds onto direct mailers and, and doing data entry and that sort of thing. And it was really a blessing in disguise. However, because I think, um, for any of your listeners are entering the workforce or looking to start a career, finding a job at a mid-sized company can be a really good place to start someone that’s 50 employees or something like that, where there’s larger than a mom and pop, but it’s smaller than obviously a large corporation. And the reason for that is a company like that, it can’t specialize in all of its roles. It can’t have a dedicated person for every single task the company does. And so anyone who’s coming on, I mean, really has to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of different things, and you get exposed to a lot of different parts of the business. And so as we grew and I had a real affinity for sales and operations and that sort of thing, I was able to work my way up through the organization into first as a manager, then as a director, and then when our CEO decided to, our founder decided to step aside a little bit. I was lucky enough to be tapped to drop into that role. And it’s it’s been like that ever since.

Wade: Well, what I love about that, too, is that when you start to get into the workforce, or even if you’re going to change careers into sort of a new vertical or something that you’ve never done before in a company that size, being able to wear all those hats helps you to discover for yourself, oh, I like doing this, but I don’t like doing that. Or and it also helps you to show where your natural talents are when you were doing the sales part initially, is it the management side that you really liked, just because the more sort of the strategy side, is that kind of what drew you to that? You like the strategy side of things?

Anders: Yeah, very much so. I mean, I think a lot of people probably when they’re starting out on their career, they think they should all have it all figured out. Like, you know, you go into college, you know, exactly what you’re going to major in. You know exactly what you want to do. And the reality is, for most people, that’s not the case. And oftentimes you don’t learn those lessons in college. You learn them on the job and actually doing things. And so I ended up just having an affinity for really creating teams. And that’s really what this is all about. It’s it’s about creating a team, nurturing a team, hiring the right people, knowing what you’re looking for and to create something larger than yourself. That’s the other part of this. You see a lot of people enter into these more significant management roles, and they make it all about themselves in a way. And really what? And that’s all that’s doing is gatekeeping your business, because then it’s only it can only grow as fast as your ability. And really you want it to be larger than yourself. And creating something like that is really fun. That’s ultimately what it came down to, is creating a team like that is is really fulfilling.

Wade: So when you came into the business, there was us 15 years ago. You come in at entry level and now you’re the CEO. How much has the business grown from the time that you came in to right about now? You know, I mean, has that growth been on a linear trajectory? Has it sort of kind of gone up and down or just had one big explosion walk me through the business path? Because I think that could help a lot of people that are in those 50 person businesses that are starting. There are a lot of those in our industry. So what did that look like for you guys?

Anders: Well, when you’re in it, for us, it felt gradual in a consistent basis. We were always growing by a pretty tightly bound window every year. But looking back now, we’re over triple the size we were. And when you’re in it, you don’t really realize how much things are changing as from day to day. But now we have two production facilities, one here in Washington state, one out in Virginia. The whole process of standing up an entirely new manufacturing center, tripling our headcount and thus the sales, you need to justify that type of thing. I mean, these are major changes and then all the different things in terms of your systems and internal processes and, and how you really manage teams and how do you become, how do you go from a kind of a young company that’s just starting out its processes and maybe a little bit fast and loose with things to becoming a little bit more professional, a little bit, having more procedures in place, protecting both yourself and your shareholders. And so looking back then we’re like, wow, we’re in a totally different place than we were then. But in the moment, it’s just really incremental steps day by day by day. And you just chip away at that rock.

Wade: Yeah, I think that’s encouraging for people to know that if they keep just having that a growth mindset where they don’t have to hit a home run in business to get so big, you just keep hitting those singles every year, every month, every quarter, just keep hitting signals and are singles. And business has a way of rewarding you in that way, because the nice thing about that type of approach is you’re not leveraging yourself as much as you are to trying to hit a home run all the time.

Anders: Yeah, and I think perhaps particularly in the business world, I think maybe the tech mindset has warped people’s expectations for how businesses operate and what the end game is supposed to be. I mean, everyone’s supposed to bootstrap it in a garage, and then you’re supposed to be a $5 billion company and 5 or 10 years, and that’s what success looks like. And if you’re not doing that, then what are you doing wrong? And I still think that applies to many businesses. And just going in and doing the work and grinding away at it is really the heart of it. I mean, there’s almost a cottage industry in business analytics and management around what is the secret to business, what are the secrets that everyone should do to make yourself the next Bill gates or something like that? And I mean, going through this process, I don’t think there’s any secrets at all. I mean, it’s just do what you’re going to say you want to do. If you tell a customer, I’m going to do this, you go and you do it, and you do right by your employees, and you make a quality product, and you ship when you say you’re going to ship and you make it. If you do all those things and your product is good, the market will reward you. It’s almost like all these business secrets and business gurus are trying to have a shortcut to doing the right thing, and there’s no shortcut to do it well.

Wade: And don’t you think you it actually puts you at a disadvantage to try to find a hack, because my experience in business is that the biggest discoveries that create the pivot points for business are in the grind. It’s not some magical, you’re not going to go on an ayahuasca retreat, and you’re going to have some magical lightning bolt that’s going to hit you for your business. It’s more of one day you’ve done the same thing 300 times that month, and then you then you have a thought like, what about this? And that little insight? Only nature gives up her secrets very, very unwillingly. Right. And so you got to grind it out and grind it out. And then one day those insights just appear. And that’s the craft of your business, I think. And I think people get in a it does people a disservice to think there is a hack. It takes the fun out of it, don’t you think? It really.

Anders: Does. There’s no shortcut to putting in the work, whether for yourself or for your team. And it’s hard. But that’s also the value that any company brings is can you execute on hard things? And if you can then then you’re on to something.

Wade: Well, and that’s a great sort of segue into what you guys actually do. Right. So we’ve talked about this macro approach. All right. So we want to grow incrementally. We really wanted to really do what we say we’re going to do. We just want to do the business as the best we can. So let’s talk a little bit about the business. So truck vaults I know that you would consider yourself in terms of like the safety vertical. Right. Walk us through what your core offering is, how you guys position yourselves and what you see where you’re at right now.

Anders: Well, ultimately, TruckVault is is a vehicle accessory manufacturer. We make secure systems for your vehicle. And typically that takes the form of a locking drawer that mounts in the cargo area of your vehicle. So you get out of your car, you go around to the back and you pop up in the hatch, or you drop the tailgate, and there is a locking drawer mounted to the floor of your vehicle right there. And our really core core ability is we can customize how that looks and how that operates and what the dimensions are for that. So literally, we have a product available for every single make and model of vehicle on the road, which is enormous undertaking to try and do and keep up with. And it’s something that no one else really in the market does when they try to do something like that. But there really allows us the flexibility to always have a solution for people. So, you know, really it’s it’s a high security drawer system that you can customize the layout for. You go into the range or something like that with with weapons you want to you want to be able to go to lunch or something like that and not be paranoid that your gums are going to get stolen out of the parking lot, or if you’re a police officer or something like that. That’s really where our bread and butter is.

Wade: Let’s circle back to that, that you have a solution for every model of a vehicle, right. Like that’s a if you really think about that it’s easy to say. But that’s. Pretty hard to do. Did you start out that way, or is it something where you said, okay, we’re going to handle this class of vehicles? And then as time went on, you just started stacking on more and more? Or is it like from the beginning you’re like, we’re just going to custom make it. And through that custom making process, then we just have an inventory. How did that all work?

Anders: It was more of an incremental process. Going back to the start out. Chandler, our founder, he’s a clay shooter and sport shooter and that sort of thing. So he was always going going to the range and going to events and that sort of thing with his with his truck. And he was like, man, I have some way of storing all that stuff in my vehicle and not just having it, having all these prized shotguns, whether it’s a perazzi or or even something more modest, you just don’t want to have that just rattling around in the cargo area. And so he just built something himself. And when he was at the range, someone noticed what he was building. I was like, hey, what’s that? I mean, that’s that’s pretty cool. And you make something like that for me. And from really humble beginnings, it just snowballed from there. And so we started with trucks, I expanded to SUVs, and then people just kept asking us. There was just that. There was that organic demand. Well, could you make it for this? Could you make it for that? And we just never said no. And sometimes, you know, that can be a problem for you. You always say yes to everything, but other times it can. The market is telling you something and it’s and it’s telling you there’s a demand there. And we ended up embracing that and making it part of our core identity.

Wade: Yeah. I mean, the huge advantage of that for you guys then, is that it’s very hard to compete with you because you have the internal knowledge, number one, of how to do all of that. So that is an asset. It’s the sort of the capital that you have. But then the second thing too is that you are really responding to the demand of the market. And at the end of the day, that’s what a business is all about. I think sometimes a lot of people who are new to business, but they have a hobby that they have a passion for. They’re just like, well, I’m just going to do it this way and people are going to buy it, and if they don’t, then that’s their problem, right? Well, that’s not how businesses run. And so meeting that demand is a very important part of being able to sustain and grow a business. And so I think that’s fascinating that he came out of his hobby and then grew it into the business itself in terms of the customization. So if I was to call you up and say, okay, I have a Dodge Caravan from 2013, what happens then? Do you say, okay, well, here’s what you can do, or here are your options. Or how does that work for someone that that may have an older car or something.

Anders: So I mean we have on file designs and on file layouts that we’ve found have been successful in the marketplace, have been regularly requested. And so we would maintain a list of those designs on file, and we would basically issue you a quote as an old school quote based sales cycle where you’re actually call us up and you deal with the human from reception to sales. They send you designs and you tell us what you want. And if our on file stuff works for you, then great. And you can you can order that. And if you prefer to customize it and make it to yourself in in terms of whatever you’re looking to lay out in those drawers, maybe there’s a piece of equipment that you’re looking to secure, or there’s something mounted in the cargo area that you like us to work around, or something like that. Then we’ll draw up a new design and, and send it to you and go from there. And so it becomes a real sort of two way conversation with the customer every single time. It’s not one click shopping on Amazon, you know, so that obviously from a scale perspective that’s challenging. But it’s also really interesting, you know, when you actually, you know, working in the trenches of something like that because every single day what you’re basically trying to do is come up with a solution for someone, they’ve got a problem, and you’re trying to do a solution. And so you’re not just trying to sell them the most expensive thing. You’re trying to create a solution.

Wade: And I think it must be pretty interesting for your guys’s perspective that there’s always something that you haven’t seen before, even though you’ve been in business for like a really long time. And even though you’ve dealt with every make and model of the vehicle, someone, somewhere is going to come to you, going to say, hey, I have a crew of hotshots, and we have these trucks that we’ve got to do, and what do you know? And we’re going to fight these fires and these are our problems. I mean, did you guys do you still experience that or is there pretty much you’ve just seen everything at this point?

Anders: No, we absolutely still experience it because the market is always changing. And what vehicles people are using is always changing. What they’re storing is always changing. And so as they change, then the problems that we encounter change as well. About a third of our business is pure custom. Just something almost, almost, you know, blank slate. Draw me up a design. Here’s a problem that I have. And these are really challenging to do particularly profitably. But one way we look at it is, is is almost user subsidized market research. They’re coming to us with problems. And if we see recurring themes in that and the multiple customers coming to us with a particular desire, that’s the market speaking to us, hey, it’s going in a different direction, and we should look at this as an official product and that sort of realm, and then take it out of the custom world and make it official. And that’s worth its weight in gold to any business, because otherwise your product lines are going to be pretty static. If you’re not reacting to that type of thing, or you’re spending a heck of a lot of money on market research to figure out where the market is going.

Wade: Yeah. So I like that. And this is important, I think from a business perspective is, is that you can’t just be focused on the short term like Q1, right? You say, okay, well, we have we have to hit our numbers for Q1. What are we going to do to Q1? Like? There always has to be an element of the medium to the long term. In Q1, you got to be thinking about Q4, but also Q4 three years from now or like you said, or you get stagnant. I mean, as a CEO of the company, what how much what percentage of your time would you say is spent with that forward looking focus, like trying to say, okay, what do I have to be concerned about a year from now, two years from now, three years from now in terms of maybe risk and then also and then also from our perspective, meaning the business, what are we going to try to do for innovation. Right. So what percentage of your focus is spent with that forward thinking mindset?

Anders: I mean it’s at least a third. You’re spending anything less than that. It’s it’s you’re probably you’re probably doing something wrong. You definitely have to be dedicating a significant portion of your time to what’s going to be those future products. Because once you decide to make it an official product and looking at what the supply chain that you need to stand up in order to actually execute on that type of product, it takes a long time. I’m probably one of the biggest lessons of product development I’ve learned is that it takes way longer than you think it’s going to. You think, oh, this is going to be a simple design. We’ll draw it up like this. We already have a supplier, no problem. But from manufacturing to supply and especially to marketing, all of those things take months to execute on. And you could you could spend literally several years developing something new. And so you better start now because you don’t if you start late, you’re already behind the game on that.

Wade: And I think that’s a really good perspective for maybe businesses that are starting in the earlier phase of their growth. Right. They’re just starting out their bootstrap businesses. Maybe it’s someone who has their hobby or their passion is the beginning of the business, because I think a lot of people have this idea that, oh, we just going to do it and we’re just going to make it. But manufacturing something has its own set of challenges. I mean, you guys are you have two manufacturing facilities. What made you choose Virginia and why did you do Virginia? Was that because of like a logistics for delivery. So then you could have the plant in Virginia kind of shipped to the East Coast, and then your plant in Washington handle like the West Coast. Was that the thought process or why bifurcate the two locations?

Anders: Yeah, it’s actually pretty close. We look to what our sales were, and ultimately 60, 70% of it was located clustered around the eastern seaboard. So that’s where the major population centers of America are, after all. And thus, naturally, that’s where a lot of the business was. And so to to cut down on shipping costs and turnaround time and having a plant that was in closer proximity to customers as well, you know, we felt that that would be a major growth opportunity. So that’s why we decided to pursue that, because we were increasingly capacity constrained here at our washing facility. So rather than expand here, we decided to open up an all new facility and that and we settled on the area because it’s proximity to DC, we’re increasingly happy with the public safety market. I mean, that’s I mean, police, fire, federal agencies and those make up the majority of our business. And so having a close proximity to that area was really beneficial for us.

Wade: This episode is brought to you by TacticalPay.com. Every few years, it seems large banks and national credit card processors suddenly decide that they no longer want to process payments for firearms and firearms related businesses, and so they drop these businesses with almost no notice, freezing tens of thousands of dollars in payments for months on end. If you want to ensure your partner with a payments provider that is dedicated to supporting the firearms industry, or you just want to find out if you could be paying less for your ACH, debit and credit card processing, visit TacticalPay.com. Again, that’s TacticalPay.com. And let’s talk a little bit about manufacturing, because I don’t think people really you started on that a little bit about how long it takes for something. It always takes longer to produce something from idea to the production line. But let’s talk a little bit about the manufacturing, because automobiles is a pretty regulated industry. It obviously is a very mature industry. What kind of challenges did you guys experience from being, I guess, automobile adjacent? Because an accessory. Right. So what kind of specific challenges do you guys encounter because of dealing with automobiles, for example?

Anders: Well, I mean, you are sort of at the at the mercy of the vehicle manufacturers. They’re going to change their vehicles and they are not going to care one wit about how that might affect us. And fair enough, we’re pretty small compared to like General Motors or something like that. So the things that we run into the most are how do you install those? That’s ultimately what our customers expect and want is a secure install to go along with the secure product. And what do you do when the new generation of Tahoe comes out and there’s no mounting points in the floor at all? Or what do you do with a new expedition comes out and the entire floor is just an aluminum pan. How do you overcome those? And basically, we’ve had to get creative and change up our materials. And particularly in the install and design, custom platforms, custom brackets, custom frames, all particularly designed for each of these vehicles. And then you have a whole design and engineering cycle around that to do that. But again, yes, this is hard, but it’s also an opportunity because if it’s hard to do, then not many people are going to be able to do it. And if you can execute on it, then you would have an advantage in the marketplace. And so it can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity.

Wade: Yeah. It’s funny, I was talking to you. There’s a lot of corollaries to there’s a holster company that I write for, right. That I do their copywriting for them. And and they have a similar problem because every year Glock is going to come out with they’re going to change their gun a little bit. Right. It’s still the same gun. Right. But they’re going to the Glock 19. They’re going to like do something to it that’s going to impact the holster. Right. And same with SIG or whatever. So are you guys proactive in that meaning. Do you try to get ahead of it and like do you have a relationship. Is there somewhere where you can go and say, we know they’re going to make these changes and so we’ll get ahead of it? Or are you reactive where you’re like, okay, well, we’ll just wait till we have customer come in with a new one and ask us, hey, what do we do? Right. So how do you decide that balance in terms of being proactive and designing in advance versus being reactive? We’re just going to wait and see what the demand is.

Anders: Well, you do have to look at what what your big movers are. What are the most popular vehicles looking down your balance sheet, your revenue? Where is most of the dollars going? And for us, we’re very heavy on F-150, Ford Explorer, Chevy Tahoe, the suburban, etc., those type of vehicles. And so any time a new model comes out, we are absolutely proactive jumping on that, trying to get a vehicle in, measuring, just starting that cycle immediately because we know there’s going to be there. If you’re dealing with something like a Subaru Ascent or something like that, maybe you end up being a little bit more reactive and trying to see what the demand for that type of vehicle is, but ultimately, if someone asks for it, we’re going to do it.

Wade: And I think that’s a lot of my guys that that they have, like these boutique shops. I think that’s a very important lesson for them to know from a business perspective, because there really is the 8020 rule in almost every business, right? Like 80% of your business is going to come from 20% of the your customers. Right. And so for you guys, when you say, I would assume that is in your Ford F-150 trucks, you’re like you said like your your SUVs. Is there a specific like is Ford the big one or is it just it doesn’t it’s just the truck vertical, right. Or are there certain brands of vehicles that their owners lend more towards your product? Do you find it’s.

Anders: It’s tough to put, which is the number one because it ships around a lot based on what the mix of the fleets are. When when the pandemic struck and so many of the plants went down, you saw the mix flip around a lot. Historically, the Ford Explorer Long-Term, when I first joined the Crown Vic was probably the number one vehicle. That was the number one police vehicle that you see on the road. Now, how many Crown Vic’s do you see there? Basically no, but it’s it’s all it’s all over and done and it’s mainly SUVs. And so you do have to change it up as it goes along. But for us definitely the F-150, the full size trucks and the full size SUVs is really where we see most of the volume. But that’s because the type of people that buy that type of vehicle, they buy it for a reason. They’re buying it because they have a lot of stuff that they want to carry, a lot of valuable equipment that they want to secure, and make sure that someone can’t just pop their window and run off with it. So that’s why that becomes the biggest verticals for us.

Wade: So I would say like, obviously government fire, police are your bread and butter. But you guys also obviously do individuals as well. Has that mix always been the same? So it sounds like when you were beginning the origins of the company were more retail because your your founder was just selling stuff to people on the range. Right? So as the company progressed, how did that flip occur or is it a static kind of throughout the time? Does that make sense between the government and the private? Individual, the retail side.

Anders: It definitely shifted over time. When we started out, this was very much a consumer focused company, focusing on the skeet shooters and the trap hunters and and just the general firearm enthusiast, anyone that has guns and is going to the range. That was our core demographic. And over time, we just are the awareness of our product grew because there’s a lot of overlap between that community and the public safety community. Police officers. There’s a real crossover between those two. And as the awareness of our product and public safety grew, we got more requests from those type of customers for products. And so pretty quickly, even when when I joined, public safety was starting to become the majority of our of our business, and that ratio has only grown over time. Public safety has really undergone some major changes in the last decade. The shift to SUVs. Officers are carrying way more equipment than they ever have, and budgets have gone up, not down. And that’s really helped in terms of making sure that every officer is properly equipped.

Wade: I think there’s something that you touched on earlier in our conversation, which is sometimes it may not seem like that it’s profitable to do a custom job for someone, but it’s market research. But at the same time, too, it’s it’s marketing itself. Because if you have someone that that has an SUV or something that you haven’t done before and you do a custom thing for them, and they’re a police officer and they go to the station, that starts that process of increasing the awareness in the marketplace of, of your product. Right. So I think a lot of times, again, it’s like that forward thinking of, okay, let’s just keep getting our product out there. And if we do that enough time, good things will happen. That’s just a core business principle. I mean, how would you describe that as it relates to your overall philosophy of business?

Anders: Well, I mean, I think you should never underestimate how little the customer knows about you. You know, you work in a business for years. You go there every day. You become an expert about everything that you do. There’s a tendency to even if you know it’s not right to assume, well, the customers must know what we do, right? That that we even exist at all. And the reality is that unless you have a multi-million dollar advertising marketing budget, the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t even know that you exist, let alone what you do. And really, no one really has. Few people have the budget to run a kind of marketing program to change that. So what do you do? It’s it’s it’s like you said, you have to have product out there. When people see it, they want, oh, that’s maybe I would want something like that. And it grows organically. That’s probably why our growth has been incremental over the years, because the primary driver of awareness of our product is not necessarily direct advertising to the customer. It’s organic word of mouth. The more product out there, the more people see it. And that sort of steadily grows over time. And if you have a good product and certainly hope that everyone does, then that is your best form of marketing is the product itself. It’s really driving value for customers. They’ll understand.

Wade: Well. And I think the organic growth strategy on the manufacturing side is a good one, because if you let’s say that you suddenly increase your advertising budget magically by $1 billion, you’ve got a free billion dollars worth of advertising. It’s unlikely your manufacturing capacity could deal with the amount of stuff that suddenly, if you suddenly had ten times the amount of orders, like it’d be very difficult for your manufacturing capacity to deal with that. And so when you’re making something like you guys make and especially we have custom offers, like, you guys make that constant grinding away and that constant putting product out there, putting product out there is a safer way of doing it in a more quality way of doing it than just trying to market your way to growth.

Anders: Yeah. And particularly for a manufacturer like us where we are strictly built to order a lot of manufacturers, they’re making runs of things they’re doing, you know, a thousand of one particular SKU or something like that. We’re 100% built to order. There’s if if something is getting cut on the floor, it’s because there’s an order for it. And that is a very different way to manufacture things than, than most companies do. And it requires that you have a lot more expertise on the production floor to react to things, because you’re not going to be able to design everything in a program to the degree you’re going to have to rely on some expertise on the floor. And and that was one thing we ran into when we were standing up the Virginia facility. We felt, I think there’s a tendency in the business world a little bit, maybe I’m generalizing to put sales and marketing and that sort of thing above production in terms of the hierarchy of importance in a business. And I think that’s a really dangerous approach because sales may drive your revenue, but production is going to drive your profit and your cash flow.

Anders: And if they are not executing, you’re not going to be making money. And if you’re not making money, bad things obviously start happening really quickly. And so you. Really have to elevate production in your business and make their voice very clear to everyone. Otherwise it’s going to be very difficult to make decisions if something goes wrong. And so in Virginia, it took a lot longer than we anticipated to reach the volumes and the efficiency that we expected, because it took time to build the team to to get good people in and get them to stick, particularly when you have a totally new team where there aren’t any veterans there. And that becomes a problem in and of itself, where people come hire on and they’re out pretty quickly until you get a nucleus of veterans, of people that can take other people under their wing, it becomes hard. And that took a that took a while. It took several years before we were able to figure that out.

Wade: How did you get the people in Virginia? Because you’ve got this proximity is power thing for the the Virginia plant to DC and all of that. But it it is far away from the culture of you guys. And in on the West Coast. Right. So you have two problems there. How did you get are you still with me? I lost your camera. There you are. All right. Good. I want to make sure it was just your voice. That’d be okay. But I didn’t know where you were. How did you overcome that problem of taking the culture from the West Coast and installing it into the East Coast, like having the same kind of core mission statement, core culture that you guys want for your business, but then also getting the people there invested in the future of the business, because I think a lot of businesses run into trouble when the trouble when they just think people are commodities and instead of investing in their people. So I think what I’m hearing you say is, no, we invest in our people because they are an asset, not a commodity. So how did you tackle that and overcome that issue with the distance?

Anders: It’s really hard. And honestly, I’m not sure we’ve 100% solved it even today because it never stops. You have to constantly be demonstrating it. So yeah, there was definitely a culture clash between Western Washington state and and rural Virginia, for sure. I think the way you overcome that is you just you focus on the deliverables, you focus on the basics in terms of this is what we’re trying to do. This is why it’s important. It’s not just a paycheck, like we’re actually providing a solution that people need and keeps people safe. That gets a lot of buy in right there. And then you treat people fairly. I mean, it’s, you know, it’s it’s it seems almost silly to say, but you implement, you know, for one k retirement plans, you actually communicate to your employees what’s going on in the company. You make sure that you’re there and seen by people. You just trying to have a lot of travel between the plants so people see each other face to face. Email is sometimes a perilous communication device where people just don’t know each other very well over that. And it’s it’s a constant struggle with lots of travel, treating your people right and, and staying true to the core values of your product. And if so, then the people that respect that will naturally gravitate to it. And the people that don’t want anything to do with it will, will, will filter out. And over time remaining will be that kind of core group that you can build around.

Wade: Have you found that there’s like on the innovation side, have you found that there have been because the Virginia plant is a newer plant, and it didn’t have the corporate culture that the the West Coast plant did, that they may be thinking a little bit differently and that there was actually some innovation coming from that side because they weren’t bound by the culture. They didn’t grow up in the in the culture on the West Coast. So they may have come up with some ideas that might not have occurred in the West Coast just because they were new. Did you have that kind of that back and forth of the ideas exchange, because you were saying before about how important it is on the manufacturing side to listen to those guys?

Anders: Yeah. In any company where you have disparate divisions in terms of geographically speaking, there’s always that tension in the company of how much do we want to enforce alignment between everyone, and how much do we want to allow these different sections to operate, maybe not independently, but on their own and make their own sort of culture and different areas? And that’s a difficult lane to walk. And we walk the lane of of letting Virginia have its own style a little bit and apply their own sort of culture to, to their business environment. That’s very different than out here. And so there’s definitely back communication in terms of this is how we drew this design up to work here in Washington. But when we’re actually building this thing here in Virginia, this doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t work this way in many cases in terms of production, this took a form of an engineering versus production type of discussion. And trying to bring those two departments as close together as possible. But that applies to whether it’s Washington versus Virginia or just engineering and production in general. You run into those type of things. So that’s an ongoing process. And we’ve been getting we’ve been getting a lot better. But it’s it’s one of those things where you just have to chip away at that rock over and over again. Because particularly with the built to order solution, there isn’t that one product where if you just if you just solve this one product and how it was built, everyone would be on the same page. We can’t do that because every product is different.

Wade: But I think there’s there’s that’s the silver lining, right? Where there’s a every challenge has an advantage. And the advantage is, is that if every time you’re building a product, it’s because of an order, it’s always different, then you’re forced to work together every single time, right? There’s no autopilot for anybody. And so that’s a feature, not a bug of your business. And maybe one reason why you guys are are doing so well compared to other people who are trying to commoditize things more. You’re like, no, no, we’re going to do the opposite of commoditization. We’re going to go as unique as as possible. And it seems to be a really cool feature of what you guys do and not a bug. So we’ve gotten really granular on the home stretch of our talk. So what I want to do is I want to go bigger picture now and talk about that forward thinking process. So what does it look like? You’re the CEO. What are you what does it look like for TruckVault the next two years, three years, five years like are you what is your vision for the future?

Anders: Well, I mean, I think this is still a very a real growing company. I mean, we’re still under 100 employees. And you look at sort of the market share of how many vehicles are sold in the United States every year, particularly in public safety and how many vaults we create. We’re still in the, you know, single digits of market share. And so how do you how do you grow, how do you take that next leap and growth for a company? And for us, that’s going to be diversifying even further. Our product base in terms of having solutions for basically every vertical of those customers. So whether it’s the patrol side all the way up to the commander side and having those type of solutions. And so how do you do that? In many ways in manufacturing it’s it’s it’s vertically aligning everything in your supply chain, bringing things in-house as much as possible so that you can capture the margins for the creation of that product to allow you to hit the price points that you need in order to get the volume that you’re trying to go for. So for us, it’s going to be designing our own blocks. It’s going to be designing our own install systems. It’s going to be designing our own new layouts and getting more involved in the technology of a lot of these departments, whether it be drones and power and and TVs and inverters and all these types of things that people are increasingly deploying in their vehicles. It’s it’s coming up with a solution for all of that. And that’s what sort of consumes my time, is designing the right products that can achieve those goals.

Wade: And I actually have one more question, and then we’ll close with how people can find you. And and so there’s been a big push towards EV right towards electric vehicles. Is the design is there any does that create any design challenges for you guys in terms of just because it’s powered differently, or is it the same just because it’s you’re thinking, just where are we going to put it? It’s space. Or do EV cars and trucks provide an additional level of complexity for you guys, or was it pretty much the same? This is just more of a curiosity question for me.

Anders: It’s really interesting because it runs the gamut. Some of them absolutely present challenges for us, but it’s a particularly it’s a small vehicle. Or if they have all of the battery panels and whatnot underneath the cargo area, then obviously mounting and drilling into something like that poses a unique challenge in other vehicles. It almost makes no difference at all. Yeah, the F-150 lightning, for example, and the the bed profile is exactly the same as the normal F-150. So it really it’s it’s going to be an interesting transition in terms of, okay, how do customers react to whether it be range anxiety or that type of thing in terms of, okay, I’m going to I’m going to install something in my in my vehicle. It might be a little heavy. What does that do to my range. And so for our product we look at it in terms of the what is the ratio of the weight of the product to the weight of the vehicle. And and EVs are really heavy. I mean, they’re significantly heavier than Ice vehicles. And so basically the proportion of our weight decreases with EVs. So that’s that’s something that we’ll be positioning the product for in order to overcome. But again, if you have a robust, custom built to order system, you can react to these changes in the market a lot easier than if you had a sort of static program.

Wade: Yeah. Well that’s super that’s super interesting. And I and I think that’s a great place to close on is that I think everything that you’ve talked about positions yourself to tackle those types of problems, right? From the way that you’ve you have the your production facilities and doing things in-house, your approach to design, your approach to team collaboration, it’s like, yes, it’s a challenge, but there’s it’s just that it’s just another challenge on the list of challenges that you have every day. It’s not something that’s just going to blow you guys out of the water if there’s a big change, because every single thing that you do is a challenge. And I just think that is such a cool way to approach business than trying to make everything the same widget 5 million times, right? You’re just making each individual widget that then makes each each subsequent widget easier to make. So I just think that’s a really, really cool approach to business. So. Well, listen, I’ve. We enjoy talking to you today. How do people find you? I know that your guys’s website is vault.com and that’s so. That’s true. Vault.com are you guys on socials anywhere?

Anders: Yeah, we’re on Instagram as well, TruckVault USA as well as Facebook. But TruckVault.com is the best way to find us. We have a configurator in there, so you enter your vehicle, go through the steps and see all that and submits to us and and we can design something for you.

Wade: That’s amazing. And if we have and we may have people who are in businesses that may want to reach out to you directly, is there a way to do that or just submit a on the contact form on the website is the best way to do that and just make a note.

Anders: Contact form on the website. Just come right over to me and and I’ll respond to it personally.

Wade: Yeah. There’s a yeah there’s an other option. So we’ll have select the other option to get to Andrew. So well I could literally geek out and talk to you all day about business. And I just I, I have learned a lot from this. So I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have talking about it. And I’d love to have you on the show again.

Anders: It’s been great. We thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Wade: Great to have you and we’ll talk soon. You’ve been listening to the Tactical Business Show by TacticalPay.com. Join us again next episode as we explore what it takes to be a business success in the firearms industry.