Career Advice for a Young Machinist
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  1. #1
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    Default Career Advice for a Young Machinist

    Please excuse this post being all over the place. My ADD gets the best of me when I try writing down my thoughts in a organized way...

    Its been a little over a year from the day I walked into my current shop with no experience(mid 20s). We do high mix low volume prototype work and
    as of now, I program, setup and operate both the mills and lathes in conjunction with our manual mill and lathe. Ive found a love for fast turn around work and do well under stress. I am extremely passionate and borderline obsessed with everything machining. I want to take advantage of the energy and motivation I currently have to get further ahead skill wise.

    The owner/head machinist is on his way to retirement in the next couple years and has basically handed off all the work he normally does to me as I have gained more experience. I briefly spoke to him about learning the management side of the business to prepare myself for my own shop. He seemed to brighten up to the idea that I/other employees, could take over and he could be there less. This is exciting but my lack of experience and knowledge makes me worried I am getting ahead of myself. I still have so much to learn.

    Given this situation. What would you do if you were in my position?

    I want to learn as much as I can but, I am worried if I take on a lead roll or buyout the owner, that I am sacrificing learning more for making more money. I am confident I want to open my own shop eventually but, I assumed it would be 10 years down the line, not 2-3. I had imagined working at a few shops before running my own to gain that knowledge and experience I seem to hold in high regards. Is this silly?

    Long story short... How do I continue learning and chasing that "master machinist" title while also running/taking over a shop?

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    Sounds like you're doing well so far - why fight it? Even if you take over the business side too, you make an arrangement with the current boss to be available as an advisor and sounding board (someone to get feedback from before big purchases, hires, etc.).

    Just be clear in your mind that this is what you truly want. Once you take on a management role it will (and should) dominate your work life, so it almost certainly will cut back on the hands-on aspect. But if the terms are good, and so the prospects, then it sounds like you could go ahead - just keep your eyes open and stay grounded in reality.

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    You don't have to know everything to be a successful owner / director / boss man

    Henry Ford would say "No, I don't know - but in five minutes I can have someone here that does know and can tell us all about it"

    But that was likely after he had thousands of employees and knew a whole lot about the smart ones

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    Carefully assess how you will be with employees.
    Machines are easy, dealing with people is a bit tougher. Especially friends and relatives.

    Dave

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    Being a good machinist and running a successful business are two different skill sets.

    I for myself, and I suspect most others here, would like to spend all of my time on the machines as opposed to returning emails and making sure the checks are signed.

    There is not reason your 1 year of experience in the shop should hold you back from getting your toes wet on how the front office operates.

    I wouldn't worry about being a "master machinist". Whatever skill is making the money is the one you should be focusing on. If you're good at programming and doing quick turn around work, keep pushing that. It is my opinion that the age of the "master machinist" is over. The age of the the mid 20's CNC wizbang is here.

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    As far as management.... careful what you wish for. There are (normally very large) companies where you could do quite well in management, pulling 6 figures for emailing colleagues and making excel spreadsheets and doing little 'real' work. However, working in management in a small shop will likely be 180 from that ^

    From personal experience, working a job as 'working foreman' was one of the worst experiences for me. Most of that, IMO, was the owner not letting me actually do anything with it. I was responsible for my workload, plus "managing" the rest of the shop, all the while with him interfering with scheduling and such.

    If the owner lets you actually be a part of managing, you will likely have a much better experience. Best of luck.

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    1) you say you're a little nervous - if you weren't there'd be something wrong. Heading into business is scary, there's risk and unknowns

    2) You have to get to the point of taking the leap, or not...you will never 100% prepare yourself. New crap comes at you all day long you have figure out and until you are in business you won't really get what its like, no course or book can prepare you for the gut retching feeling of wondering if you're going to make payroll.

    3) you can't 100% prepare yourself, but you should try. Start reading books and familiarizing yourself with key aspects of business. Sales, accounting, HR, etc. What exactly that looks like will depend in part on the firm of course. Continuing ed in new areas is imo good general advice, pace is change and all, people have to be more self reliant and expect rugs to be pulled out from under them....more knowledge/education makes you more able to recover.

    3b) as you can't 100% prepare yourself, don't wait too long. Its like having kids, if we all waited until everything was perfect and you're ready, you'd never have them

    4) Broach the subject in a positive way - this facilitates where we want to get to etc. Then get to a written deal with training/transition program/time line/payment plan. Its not so easy to press for, in the meantime he's your boss, but you will likely regret it if you don't. The owner talking about letting go and actually do so are two different things. Its psychology, his identify is President of XYZ....when the moments that he realizes selling means giving up his identity, well, at that point deals very often just don't happen. I've waste too much time on businesses supposedly for sale and seen a few employees lured by the "you'll take it over" promise that never happens....as the years roll by.

    those are negatives, but it is fun....its fun being the boss! No big companies BS or politics and everyone laughs at your jokes. Its a lot of stress and responsibility those getting a pay cheque will never appreciate, but it is rewarding and engaging.

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    Really appreciate all the advice. Taking the day to take in all the info. You guys always give good straightforward advice when asked properly.... thanks again! Won't be the last you hear from me.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk

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    Just thinking it out and asking for advice shows a level of maturity that others do not have.

    Being in leadership/management is certainly different and be prepared for others to treat you different. You will be different as you see the pressure from the business side, and others will see you different as being the boss. (not to put you off - just prepare).

    That being said - this seems like a very golden opportunity. The current owner would most likely blow you off if he did not think you could handle it. Also - /I would think that easing in in 2-3 years with an established shop and presumable customer base and equipment would be easier than starting fresh in 10 years with a blank sheet. Especially if current owner would be around for some time to transition. Plus - if you get involved in the business side now you will know exactly what it takes to run a shop, and if this is the right one for you. Actually I'm excited for you.

    IF that is the plan have the discussion up front - you don't want to assume anything. You could be thinking that you will take over, and he may retire and his kids sell the shop out. See how you like it and than maybe become limited partner with option to fully purchase.

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    Taking over an existing business with current customers, equipment, cash flow, employees etc. is a piece of cake compared to starting a new shop from scratch. I did the takeover thing at 24 when dad was felled by a stroke and didn't come back to the shop for 2 years, and could no longer read or write, but he sure could see everything that was thought was wrong! However when I left after 6 years and started out from scratch I found out just how difficult that was. WAY more difficult and I worked my ass off to make a go of it.

    When it comes time to get serious though the most important thing you need is a contract that spells everything out. That is going to seem expensive but later you will realize that without one you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Don't ask how I know about that!

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