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February 10, 2022
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February 22, 2022

CWJJ Episode 102: A.Y. McDonald

a.y. mcdonald

Thursday, February 17- Jim and James are at it again this week for another episode of Coffee with Jim and James. Join them today as Doug Roush and Kelly Breitbach with A.Y. McDonald join them.

Quick Links:

Doug Roush on Linkedin
Kelly Breitbach on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

 [0:00] [music]

Jim Schauer:  [0:24] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this episode of “Coffee with Jim & James.”

[0:27] James, I am ecstatic. today. There are a couple reasons. One, you could tell that the Florida studio got a little upgrade.

James Cross:  [0:34] Man, an upgrade.

Jim:  [0:35] This is not a virtual background. This is real life.

James:  [0:39] It looks fake, though. The way you’re lit up, it makes it look like it’s a…

Jim:  [0:42] I’m telling you, it’s real. I could almost touch it. Do you see the…

James:  [0:46] I’ll tell you what. You win a couple awards, and all of a sudden you get a real background. That’s what happened.

Jim:  [0:53] I threw, I threw some money in the budget. I got $14.85.

James:  [0:55] Here we go.

Jim:  [0:57] So, anyways, the Florida Studio has been, had an upgrade, one. Two, we were at AGA recently and saw my buddy Nate from A.Y. McDonald. Then we had a great conversation with his…which leads us in the day.

[1:10] And then three, we’re talking about some folks that might know Lake Okoboji, Spirit Lake, Iowa ‑‑ but I have been there. I have been boating on that lake. So, with that, I am like a kid in the candy store right now, James. I am, you know. So, I’m going to leave it over to you to bring in our guest for us.

James:  [1:30] Yeah, you should have said this was Coffee With Jim & James after hours.

Jim:  [1:34] Oh, oh. Well, I was going to…

James:  [1:37] We’ll get into that later. We’ll get it right after dark.

[1:38] [crosstalk]

James:  [1:38] I don’t know what you were doing.

Kelly Breitbach:  [1:40] After dark.

James:  [1:40] Hey, Doug and Kelly are joining us from A.Y. McDonald. And I can’t do y’all Justice and bringing you in, so I’m going to let you bring yourself in. Good morning. Welcome to the show.

[1:50] [crosstalk]

Doug Roush:  [1:51] Good morning.

Kelly:  [1:51] There you go.

Doug:  [1:51] I appreciate it. We really appreciate it. Just a little brief introduction of myself. I’m Doug Roush and Director of Product Management here at A.Y. McDonald. I’ve been here for about eight years, and I work with everybody in the product management area, including our Innovation Department.

Kelly:  [2:10] And I’m Kelly Breitbach. I’m our Innovation Product Manager. So, I’m one of the crew on Doug’s team. And I’ve been at A.Y. for five years. Been in innovation for 15 or so years, in a totally different capacity than today. So, I went from a much more technology‑based environment to manufacturing environment, so it’s pretty fun.

Jim:  [2:38] James, this innovation springboard that were on right now, I’m going to let you handle that because I know you love to nerd out on innovation…

James:  [2:48] I’ll geek out on it. I’ve been known.

Jim:  [2:52] If I don’t get a word in edgewise, I’ll never get one in. I’ll be sitting over here like this. Anyways, let’s keep this real. Let’s keep it on track.

[3:00] I do want to ask a very high‑level question for our audience members out there. The audience goes global. It’s not just North America, United States, and such. It’s global.

[3:10] The name A.Y. McDonald and the industry, give our viewers and audience a little bit of a taste of what has made A.Y. McDonald so successful as you folks are in the industry.

Doug:  [3:22] A.Y. McDonald’s a company that was formed in 1856, so we’re over 165 years old. One of the things that is resounding amongst everybody here at A.Y. is that our motto is the customer’s the boss.

[3:39] You ask anybody here, whether it be in the offices, in the factory, in the foundry, at any one of our manufacturing facilities, they understand that that’s our main objective is to make sure that the boss is satisfied.

[3:54] That’s the thing that has really made us successful, but that along with the motto that A.Y. McDonald himself founded back when he started the business. His whole thing was that we’re going to make good products and sell them honestly, and we hold those values even 165 years later.

[4:14] The thing that separates us, I think, a lot of times is that we’re a family‑owned company. It’s a company that can make decisions quickly, but we make decisions based on what’s going to allow us to be here in the next 165 years.

[4:33] We’re going to make those decisions that are going to be great for the industry, great for us. We can make those pretty quickly, but the main objective behind everything that we do is really that the customer’s the boss.

Jim:  [4:47] I like that. James, I have to geek out a little bit because one of the products that they do make…In my world, being a 20‑year gas guy, there’s a product, a meter set, a riser that has a bypass on it. If a meter needs to be…

[5:02] [dog barks]

James:  [5:03] Holy cow.

Jim:  [5:04] Sorry.

James:  [5:05] What kind of show are we running here?

[5:06] [laughter]

Jim:  [5:06] It’s crazy here. It’s crazy.

James:  [5:09] Our next guest…

[5:10] [laughter]

Jim:  [5:13] It happens. It’s COVID.

James:  [5:15] Y’all are in between the dog trainer and…

[5:17] [laughter]

Doug:  [5:18] Absolutely.

Jim:  [5:21] Before I was so interrupted by the zoo over here, you’re able to use this meter set and bypass gas and drop a meter without having to shut off the home.

[5:34] In other words, you can take off a meter, put a new one on, purge it to all those things, get it re‑going without having to go back into the home. Industry average is $70 to have a home relight, plus the risk of walking through the front door and going to the areas to do all that.

[5:50] I’ve known that for years. Nate and I actually geeked out a little bit at AGA in Orlando over that little bit, so just want to give a shout‑out to that technology.

Doug:  [6:00] One of the nice things about that is a gentleman by the name of Tony Altos, was our previous sales rep throughout the United States National Sales Manager. He’s one who started that whole concept.

[6:11] It was on a bar napkin, drew it out, and said, “OK. Here’s what we should do. Here’s a great way to go ahead and do a bypass technology and from there…”

[6:20] That’s another thing, that A.Y. is different than a lot of companies throughout whatever industry you’re talking about. The other thing that we have hanging out throughout our walls, throughout A.Y. years, that none of us is as smart as all of us. That’s a perfect example of that philosophy.

Jim:  [6:43] You guys do some great things. It’s great to [inaudible] industry.

James:  [6:48] I love a good bar napkin story. I do some of my best work on bar napkins.

Jim:  [6:54] Coffee with Jim and James is done on a bar napkin.

James:  [6:57] A coffee napkin. We were at work.

Jim:  [7:01] I’m sorry.

James:  [7:05] What a segue? We’re all professionals here. We were talking in the pre‑show, there was an announcement while we were at HGA maybe or close to it, about a new podcast starting. I’ll try not to say it wrong because I always say it wrong.

Jim:  [7:22] Come on, James.

James:  [7:24] It’s right there on the screen, “A.Y After Hours.” Tell us a little bit about the idea behind that. How people and how often they can see it. Helps a little bit.

Doug:  [7:36] We have a number of shows already, what they face in the [inaudible] as far as already filmed. What we try to do is we try to hit as many different industries. We look at four different industries, natural gas pumps, plumbing, and waterworks.

[7:52] We try to spread it across each one of those industries as far as the podcasts are concerned. One of the things that we do, is we launch it every Wednesday at 10 AM, Central Standard Time. Everyone is there.

[8:08] There’ll be a new podcast of A.Y. After Hours. We try to get different aspects of the different industries. The way it started was…For some reason, I’ve been known as the voice of A.Y. to a certain extent. Anytime alarm goes off or something mere like that, or you call in, it’s my voice that’s on the telephone.

[8:32] They thought that since I had the voice to do it, I also had the face to do a podcast. They were sorely mistaken. We started off and they asked me to do a podcast. I said, “Whatever needs to be done.”

Kelly:  [8:46] You said what’s a podcast? [laughs]

Doug:  [8:47] Yes. I did that. Innovation is a big part of our business. They said, “Why don’t you go ahead and interview Kelly, so you can talk about the innovation and give people a bit of insight as far as that’s concerned?”

[9:01] I said, “Great idea.” The very first podcast that we did never got aired. That was A.Y. After Hours with Doug.

James:  [9:14] That was after dark with Doug.

Doug:  [9:17] [laughs] Exactly. That went so well that they decided to include Kelly as a co‑host. Now it’s A.Y. After Hours with Doug and Kelly. We keep fighting over whether or not it should be Kelly…

Kelly:  [9:34] It’s Kelly and Doug.

Doug:  [9:36] No. It’s Doug and Kelly. Exactly the way it’s spelled out.

Kelly:  [9:39] I was coming on as [inaudible], excited about it. I’m always waiting to promote innovation. Anytime I can talk about it, I’m super excited. Then, I think, “OK. I did my one episode. I’m finished. Yay.” [laughs]

[9:54] Then, I get the call, “We think we want to change this up a little bit.” I’m like, “Oh, not really committed to this process, but it’s [inaudible].”

Jim:  [10:02] Kelly and Doug, it is a commitment. James and I started this back in April of 2020. He did the same thing. James is the mastermind behind it. He goes, “I got this idea. It’ll be great.” I’m like, “Wonderful. What do we have to do?”

“[10:15] What’s a podcast?” I’m like, “What do you mean? Video. I don’t talk to TV screens. It doesn’t work well.” It evolves and it enhances. The comfort level comes in.

[10:26] It’s fun that you guys are being brave about it to be very clear about that. It takes a lot. When you have a dog bark or…I can’t say, three dogs bark, that can really throw you off, and a year ago, it would have.

[10:40] We would have shut down and all heck would have broken loose. I would have put dogs in a…Well, never mind. I won’t say what I would have done. Anyways, but to that point, kudos to you. James and I…

James:  [10:51] There’s a lot of work in it. We have a support group that you guys are more than welcome to join.

Kelly:  [10:56] Yeah, we might do that.

James:  [10:57] It is really funny how much work goes into it and what you can learn from each other. Sounds like you all are going about it the right way. It’s how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, for sure. Getting those in the can. We sound like industry professionals, right?

Kelly:  [11:16] Yeah.

Doug:  [11:16] I know.

Jim:  [11:17] Experience.

Doug:  [11:18] One of the things that helps us out, we are able to utilize some of the marketing crew here at A.Y. McDonald. They do a fantastic job. They do make it easy for us. There’s no doubt about that.

James:  [11:29] Same. We saw some of them they’re smiling off camera going, “Yes, that’s our moment.”

Kelly:  [11:33] They keep us in line.

James:  [11:37] Let’s talk about…Go ahead, Kelly. Go ahead.

Kelly:  [11:40] I was just going to say a thing too for us. They’re both very informal people. We weren’t going to do this if it wasn’t going to be fun, and if the focus was an outside of A.Y. really? Our goal is to tell the stories and meet the people that we serve. Not necessarily like, “We’re so great.”

[12:01] More like, what makes each industry work, who are those people? Try to get closer to the human more emotional side of an industry that doesn’t always show you what that looks like. It’s been fun so far, we met some really, really awesome people.

Jim:  [12:19] That’s the fun part about it. We’ve started getting back to conferences, and it’s been wonderful seeing, like Nate and I running into each other and catching up after two‑some years of not seeing each other. You hit on a very good point there when you talked about having fun and bringing some interesting topics, subjects, whatever.

[12:39] Nobody wants to go on and see an Energy Worldnet 45‑minute…

James:  [12:44] Commercial.

Jim:  [12:45] Commercial, but that’s click.

James:  [12:47] [inaudible].

Jim:  [12:47] When you have fun you can bring some interesting people and have some good dialogue. Even if they don’t watch, a lot of people tell us that they have it on the screen over here, just in the background. That’s wonderful. That’s a good thing.

[13:00] [crosstalk]

Doug:  [13:00] A lot of our sales guys actually tell us that they listen to it driving down the road. Don’t watch it, but listen to it driving sown the roads.

Kelly:  [13:09] Yeah.

James:  [13:10] Same. We get a lot of that feedback. Let’s switch gears a little bit. Let’s go back to the innovation topic and really how it’s grown the company. I know that we’ll get into deeper of the innovation center and things like that, but tell us a little bit of what that’s done for AY.

Kelly:  [13:30] You were a huge part of starting innovation at AY, Doug. About five years ago, just a series of different events led to a pitch of let’s start an innovation center. Let’s have an off‑site and start with a small team theme, but that small team will be 100 percent focused on innovation, for the reason they’re off‑site and so those engineers can’t get pulled into the day‑to‑day.

[13:56] That has worked really well for us. We operate out of a small facility. I joke it’s next to an upholstery shop, we are a little hard to find at times, but there’s purpose in all of what that looks like. It’s been a really exciting ride so far.

[14:14] In my past life, one of the hard lessons I learned is if you don’t have support from the top‑down for innovation, when things get ugly or things get a little sketchy, you might be the first one to go. You might be seen as unnecessary or expendable.

[14:31] If you have that support from your leaders, they’ll stick through the failures and those tough times. You can you can feel it at AY, we have that support which we’re expected to fail, pick ourselves up and keep going. Not like, “You screwed up and you’re out.”

James:  [14:48] A little freedom to fail never hurt anyone.

Jim:  [14:52] Freedom to fail, and she just said expectation to fail. That’s interesting. James and I were on a leadership call not too long ago and talking about the idea of putting yourself out there and trying things and saying, “Wow, that didn’t go too well for me.” That’s OK. That’s an all right thing to say.

[15:12] Next time I could tried this, that or the other thing and could maybe get some different results. I like that. Expectation to fail. Thank you for enlightening me today with that one.

Doug:  [15:20] One of the things too was that what you’re talking about as far as the innovation. You can continue on something, and if you’re really not thinking about it’s OK to fail and you continue on with something that’s going to fail at the end.

[15:32] You’ve just wasted a lot more time than you ever needed to than if you’re willing to say, “OK, that’s not going to work. Let’s move on to the next thing that is going to work.” That’s a huge benefit.

Kelly:  [15:42] We’ve had a couple of gut checks. I truly believe if you’re running an innovation program, and you haven’t had some painful failures along the way, then you’re not doing it right. You’re not pushing yourself enough. You’re not taking enough risks. 

[15:56] We’ve had a couple of gut checks along the way where we just stopped what we were doing and said, “Let’s look at our portfolio. Let’s look at our pipeline.”

[16:03] It was like, “Safe, safe, safe, safe, safe. OK, time to shake things up,” or just, “We’re getting a little too comfortable.” I think you have to do that when you are an innovation.

James:  [16:15] We have an innovation department within our group is well, on the product side. That spearheads a lot of that same type of activities, but obviously we’re a technology company. Training company, it’s a little bit different, but we have a group that I call them the Dream Team because that’s what they do. It’s amazing.

[16:35] Set up user groups and work with them as well to really change how we do business for sure. Jimmy, You want to tack on anything? We went down a dark path without. You’re going to join us?

Jim:  [16:50] I’m good. You guys are all geeking out on all this innovation stuff. You know me? I’m a nuts‑and‑bolts type of guy. I do want to…No, I’m joking. 

[17:02] I really do. It’s fun to watch that and it’s fun to see people do that and it’s fun to see the risk and the rewards and the cool things that we’re bringing to our industry because our industry is always looking for ways to be more productive and safer.

[17:18] Those are just a few of the keys, reliable, reliability. All those things are so important to at least the oil and gas world and the natural gas world. At this part of the show, we normally throw it to you guys and it’ll be almost a continuation of that innovation spirit, where we give you the stage. Everybody is watching you folks now. Is there one word, one phrase one sentence?

James:  [17:44] No pressure.

Jim:  [17:45] No pressure.

James:  [17:48] This is just an award‑winning podcast that…

[17:51] [laughter]

Jim:  [17:51] Did we talk about the SGA award‑winning yet, James?

James:  [17:55] Have we talked about that yet? No.

[17:56] [crosstalk]

Doug:  [17:56] a little bit as far as the award‑winning podcast.

Kelly:  [18:00] We got to…

James:  [18:01] We voted internally, the best podcast. No, I’m just kidding.

[18:07] [laughter]

Jim:  [18:08] We got two votes.

James:  [18:09] Yeah. We won unanimously. No, we did win the corporate communication award for Southern Gas Association. Three weeks ago in Charlotte, we were there. We didn’t expect to win, I’ll be honest. We’re very blessed. Very thankful. Now it’s a job that we’re bringing up.

Jim:  [18:28] Yeah, that is we…

James:  [18:29] It changed us.

Kelly:  [18:31] We’re in the presence of celebrities.

Doug:  [18:33] Yeah, as I said, now you guys have people who take care of stuff for you guys now? No?

James:  [18:36] We do. They’re just off‑camera. as well. This is basically a mentorship program we’re in. No, I’m just kidding.

[18:44] [laughter]

Kelly:  [18:44] The better [inaudible] rookie.

Doug:  [18:45] They are.

James:  [18:46] I’m kidding.

Doug:  [18:47] Absolutely right.

James:  [18:48] A hundred that’s…There’s a lot of episodes under our belt. I will say that. When you struck a chord at the beginning of how much work it really goes into it, behind the scenes with everybody involved.

[18:59] So much work that we’re very proud of, but there’s a lot of time and effort into it.

Jim:  [19:05] Yes, there is, but wait, before you answer, before I forget, I was supposed to say hi to Toby. You guys know Toby from Wisconsin, right?

Doug:  [19:14] Yeah. [inaudible]?

Jim:  [19:14] Yeah. Toby and my wife, Tammy Bomia, Tammy’s from ClockSpring|NRI, they’ve been buddies for years. They’re always talking on the phone about this pipeline and that, or whatever they are talking about. 

[19:33] I had to give a shoutout to Toby. I think the words were “epic” and “industry icon.” Toby is a industry icon.

Kelly:  [19:39] [inaudible] his ego expanding.

Doug:  [19:42] Hold on. I’m assuming that Toby gave you those words to say.

Jim:  [19:46] No.

James:  [19:46] A bio.

Jim:  [19:49] Those are my words Toby. You would never influence me with Tammy this morning to try to get me to use those words. Never.

Doug:  [19:57] I heard you say, you mention that you talked with Nate, but that’s probably not something that you can talk about over the podcast [inaudible].

Jim:  [20:02] We’ll never speak of it again. That’s [inaudible].

Doug:  [20:05] I hear you.

Jim:  [20:06] That’s after dark.

James:  [20:09] After hours sir.

Jim:  [20:10] After hours. Anyways, let’s bring this back. Folks, give the audience a word, a sentence, a topic that you want to leave them with that they can give it all the way to them, thought leadership. A.Y. McDonald doing the great things you do, what would you want to leave folks with, one thought?

Kelly:  [20:27] I’d say for me, we opened the innovation center and the innovation department. We were about a year and a half in and we hit the pause button. We decided to focus on our way. Like, who are we, what drives us, what’s at the core of everything we do.

[20:46] It came down to one simple sentence is we care about people. We wrote it down on paper. Whenever you write something down, it becomes more real. Everybody’s connected to it. Our why was we care about people.

[21:01] We decided how are we going to do that. We’re going to provide innovative solutions. Really, I think, for me, if we keep that at the core of everything we do, of course, a company wants to make money. They want to be successful.

[21:14] The sales guys want to sell things, but there is a man or a woman at the end of all these products that has to use it every day. If we keep that person close to what we do, then I think everything else will figure itself out.

James:  [21:29] I like you.

Doug:  [21:30] I’d say it’s very similar to that, but I’ll bring it back to where I started from, from a standpoint of there is somebody at the end of each one of these products. That’s who we call the boss and because our customer is the boss.

[21:47] It’s surprising if you ever go a day throughout the halls of A.Y. McDonald if you don’t hear that a customer is the boss, here’s what we’re going to do. That’s a model we live by and so innovation plays a big part of that. I think it’s important that that continues on and moves forward because we want to provide solutions to our boss.

Jim:  [22:10] Thank you.

James:  [22:12] The voice of A.Y.

Doug:  [22:14] The voice of A.Y.

James:  [22:15] Closing it out.

[22:16] [crosstalk]

Jim:  [22:16] Doug does have that, “Hello welcome.”

James:  [22:20] Hello ladies. This is A.Y. after hours.”

[22:23] [laughter]

Kelly:  [22:23] With Kelly and Doug.

Jim:  [22:25] Excuse me, she just cuts to “Kelly and Doug.”

James:  [22:26] Lucky, lucky, Jimmy, I want to spoil all your package over there, but thank you very much whoever is really in charge over there sending all these out. I see you.

Jim:  [22:45] I tell you what, I’m in Florida. I’m 98 miles away from Cuba. I’m down here so it’s going to take a while for the packages to get here

Kelly:  [22:54] It’s on its way. [laughs]

James:  [22:55] [inaudible].

Jim:  [22:56] I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward. Doug, Kelly, wait, let me reverse that. Kelly, Doug, appreciate you guys taking the time today. We really do. It’s fun catching up. It’s fun having you.

James:  [23:07] We did it in one take. I was so concerned with the dog.

Jim:  [23:11] I tell you is we needed like Catahoula Leopard, a Border Collie and a 10‑pound Shih Tzu that’s just a ferocious little thing. You never know what I’m going to be getting over here.

Kelly:  [23:21] All I heard was leopard. [inaudible].

Doug:  [23:23] [inaudible].

James:  [23:23] It’s not a really…It’s tiger king over there. Jim’s in Florida basically. It’s a dog.

Jim:  [23:27] That would be a whole another show, whole another show. Audience, please connect with Doug and Kelly. Also, check out A.Y. McDonald After Hours. Look for it. We can google it, we can find it that way. There’s two episodes out into the Interweb. They’re out there floating around.

James:  [23:47] By the time this airs there maybe seven others.

Doug:  [23:51] We’ve already got enough for another four.

James:  [23:54] I hate to say this, but yours was going in the can.

Doug:  [23:57] Exactly.

Jim:  [23:59] I love that and you normally launch on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 AM Central, did you say?

Doug:  [24:04] Correct.

Jim:  [24:05] Is that correct thing?

Doug:  [24:05] Yeah.

Jim:  [24:06] Wonderful.

Doug:  [24:06] Look for us specifically.

James:  [24:08] I like it. Thanks for joining us.

Jim:  [24:10] Thanks for being on the show today.

Doug:  [24:12] Appreciate it spending our time

Kelly:  [24:13] Thanks for having us.

Jim:  [24:14] Absolutely, it’s our pleasure. It’s absolutely our pleasure. Audience, please again, check it out, do the right thing. If you get on the LinkedIn platform, connect with them, ask some questions.

[24:24] Follow, do the whole bit. Explore A.Y. McDonald. James, I’m going to always end it with this as I say, each and every week, we want everybody to stay safe.

James:  [24:35] Absolutely.

Jim:  [24:35] Practice safe practice practices. Until next week, we will see you on Coffee with Jim & James. Take care everybody.

James:  [24:41] Bye‑bye everybody.

[24:41] [music] 

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