Meet the Making Chips Crew
Jason Zenger and Jim Carr are your hosts. Jason runs a tooling and MRO and safety supplier for manufacturing companies called Zenger’s Industrial. Jim is president of a job shop that produces high precision CNC machined parts in Chicago.
The idea of creating the podcast, Making Chips, was rooted in this objective: “We want to elevate manufacturing leadership,” Jason said. “This was a way for us to give back to the industry and [to] do our part to make U.S. manufacturing better.”
The duo, along with their audio guru Ryan Scanlan, travel across the country to interview manufacturing leaders to share their stories. They are also starting a video series called Making Chips TV.
Jason met Tom Carmazzi, CEO of Tuthill, through a mutual friend at Mabbly. “Almost immediately we were kindred spirits and we talked about business leadership. I really enjoyed [Tom’s] friendship more than anything.”
They decided to feature Tom on an episode of Making Chips. Jim, Jason and Ryan visited Tuthill’s corporate office in April. The Making Chips team was impressed by the building and the culture they witnessed. They joked that they wanted to go for a boat ride on a small pond the building overlooks.
“The proof is there. You can tell the company culture [and Compass] is reflected in aesthetics of the building,” Jason said of the visit.
Meet Tuthill Corporation
Tuthill is a 125 year-old manufacturing company. It is fourth generation family owned by Jay Tuthill. His son, the fifth generation of Tuthills, works at Tuthill’s Springfield, Missouri plant.
The company started out making bricks in 1892. Raw clay for the bricks was extracted from quarries using horses. As quarries got deeper and deeper, Tom explained, it became more stressful on the horses and they started dying.
Then, “Mr. Tuthill bought a pump… to replace the horses and save their hearts.” Tom Carmazzi said. That is why at Tuthill “we think about the heart as the original pump.”
A Shift to Leading From the Heart with Tom Carmazzi
“As a leader, I’ve really got to be real. I’ve got to throw away the CEO persona. ‘Smartest guy in the room. I’ve got all the answers.’ It’s just not true,” Tom said.
Tom tells a story about a manufacturing plant he ran years back. The numbers were telling him that they needed to downsize. The Union President challenged him. “I get the charts and graphs. I get that you’re smart. The problem is we don’t think you care,” the president said to Tom.
Before Tom could respond, the president continued, “There’s 23 people here. Why don’t you tell me their names?”
“I knew three (names). I was rocked,” Tom said. Tom walked out of the room with a stark realization. “[The] truth of the matter was, I was a quant jock. I didn’t care.”
At home that evening, Tom’s wife gave him a piece of advice. “You gotta go back in that plant and you gotta work from the very first process to the very last one to get to know those people,” she said.
That’s exactly what he did. “I got to know faces and stopped with the numbers,” Tom said. “I wish could say I was cured. I was healed (and) it never happened again.” Rather, he acknowledges it’s an ongoing endeavor.
“As a leader it starts with me. I’ve got to show my heart,” he said. “It’s got to start with me, here and now.” As a leader, one of the most important decisions you can make is who you hire and why. Tom reiterated, “It starts with the heart.”
Conscious Company at Tuthill
“Conscious company is about being aware and awake,” Tom said. “Are you aware and awake to your surroundings, your dialogue with others and yourself?” This awareness includes anything from the dynamics of your market place to how you are feeling personally.
Often, it can be easy for people to talk about the things they do not want to do. It is more challenging to choose what they do want to do. Tom gave a light-hearted example of planning a dinner. “‘Do you want to go to Shoney’s for dinner?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you want to go to Ditka’s?’ ‘No.’ ‘Where do you want to go?’ ‘I don’t care.’” Have you ever heard that before, Tom asked. “I’ve actually said [that],” he admitted.
Awareness and responsibility is about deciding what do you really want, first and foremost, from your heart.
Strategy for Acquiring a New Business at Tuthill
For many years, Tuthill purchased numerous businesses with the strategy of “buy to grow.” Then, in the early 2000s the company began to realize that with these acquisitions, “we had lost our focus (on our manufacturing core),” Tom said. From 2009 to 2011, Tuthill divested businesses and shrunk by 60%. This was a drastic change for the company, and one which outsiders questioned. But the decision to refocus has paid off.
“Now we’re back… with a very strong balance sheet to think about how we can go out and buy businesses which do related to our core,” Tom said. However, as Tuthill looks at companies to acquire, the focus is “not sorely focused on growth, but focused on fit,” Tom said, acknowledging yet again, that numbers are only part of the story.