“The best way out is always through.” – Pulitzer Prize Winning American Poet Robert Frost
For Michael Bower, that quote, and those words could not be more descriptive of his entrepreneurial journey. Michael was born in Arkansas on a farm and grew up without many of the civilized things we take for granted. There was no running water or bathroom on the farm. It was where he would develop the work ethic that would help him achieve his goal . . . more to come on that.
Michael enlisted in the United States Marine Corp and served for four years. Following his Marine Corp service, he obtained a physics degree from Kent State University and over time, obtained a master’s degree in engineering from the University of South Florida. Both great accomplishments for a man who never read books as a child in Arkansas! During his professional career, he worked in a variety of operational management roles for both Eaton Corporation and United Technologies Corporation (UTC), but he knew he wanted more. He knew he wanted to purchase and run his own company.
In February of 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, his journey began. Michael did an internet search for business help in Central New York. He happened to come across the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and decided to reach out to them. He was eventually assigned to Mark Pitonzo, a New York State certified business advisor at the SBDC office in Liverpool. That was the beginning of a journey that would span over two years.
During initial conversations with Michael, he made it very clear that his goal was to purchase and run his own company. As Michael and the SBDC began exploring opportunities that were available in the Central New York area, he noticed a general manager position advertised on the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY) web site for Eagle Metalcraft of East Syracuse.
The company was founded in 1953 as the Eagle Manufacturing Company primarily as a welding shop. The company had evolved over time to include precision sheet metal fabrications. While working for this company wasn’t going to directly help him achieve his goal, it was a position that he knew he could provide value because of his education and practical experience. He started with Eagle Metalcraft in June of 2020 as their general manager during a period when the pandemic had adversely affected sales for many companies including this company. Even though sales bottomed out in his first month of employment with the company, he “rolled up his sleeves” and began to apply his practical knowledge of engineering and manufacturing to the existing processes at the company. From that point forward, sales improved incrementally every month. In the midst of working long days to improve sales and net margin, he and the owner of the company spoke about the possibility of Michael eventually purchasing the company.
As poet Robert Frost also said, “By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” That quote would certainly prove true for Michael. Following many months of due diligence between the two parties, Michael and the owner would come to an agreement and eventually close on the transaction in February of 2022 that would change the course of his life. He worked with the SBDC and their network of resources along with Citizen’s Bank to finalize the change of ownership. Since he began working for the company in June of 2020, he has doubled sales for the company and doubled the workforce.
While interviewing Michael for the story, he told me how much he loved the employees. “These employees care about this company. They are cost conscious and quality driven.” Prior to purchasing the company and while serving as the general manager, he noticed that there were skills that were being underutilized. Michael wanted to create an environmental infrastructure at the company that was less transactional and a place that people wanted to work. He’s given the employees opportunity to be successful and “everyone has stepped up.” He went on to say, “I want to motivate our employees, so they can share in the success of the company while holding myself accountable to them. But I couldn’t have done this without the Onondaga SBDC and Mark. They helped me with the business valuation, creation of a business plan and construction of the financial projections for external funding.” According to Michael, “Mark and I have been lockstep for over two years. He has served as a mentor, coach, and was completely invested in my success. He’s been encouraging and supportive in helping me through my journey.”
Michael knew what Robert Frost was talking about when he said, “The best way out is always through.” Michael went through and came out on the other side becoming the owner of a company that provides value to the employees, the CNY community and to himself. He truly believes that the Central New York Community has an “entrepreneurial heartbeat” and he wants Eagle Metalcraft to be a big part of that landscape. Let’s just hope Michael doesn’t have to work 12-hour days forever as part of that process.
Visit their Website - Eagle Metalcraft Inc
Article published in the CNY Business Journal on July 29, 2022
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