Tuesdays with Corey interview with Lisa Winton
Lisa Winton is the CEO of Winton Machine Company, founded by her and her husband, George Winton, in 1997. With over two decades in managing the business together in Gwinnett County, she remains the finance and business development mastermind and George continues to be the engineering brains. The mission at Winton is to design and build tube and coax fabricating machinery that adds value to their customers’ bottom line; to provide a stable and healthy environment for all team members; and to be known throughout the industry for delivering systems backed by expert and expedient technical support.
In addition to their team of 35 employees, interns and apprentices, Winton partners with 120 vendors to produce their machinery and 60% are Georgia based companies. Winton builds machinery that makes parts for a wide range of applications most notably including the NASA Mars Exploration Rover with collaborative plans underway for the next generation rover project dubbed Mars 2020; the Raytheon Iron Dome Weapon System which is used to help protect over 8 million people in Israel from incoming missiles and artillery; and mass production of refrigerators being built on General Electric assembly lines.
The Winton company culture is defined by their core values. One of these core values is “to help others.” Team Winton lives out this core value by creating STEM internships and apprenticeships while supporting STEM educational programs. They have mentored over 40 students as of 2019 and hired one of their long term engineering interns and 2 graduates of Maxwell High School of Technology. Winton is currently working with Gwinnett Tech’s new Machine Technology program providing input for their curriculum and hopes to participate in their apprenticeship program.
Winton Machine proudly represented the State of Georgia at the 2018 Made in America Product Showcase held at the White House in Washington, D.C. Winton Machine was recognized by the Gwinnett Chamber as the 2018 Pinnacle Small Business Overall Winner and Best Small Business of the Year: 25+ Employees. And, more recently, Winton Machine received the 2019 Gwinnett Chamber IMPACT Regional Business Award for Small Business. Several other state and local organizations have also recognized Winton Machine for their contributions to Georgia’s manufacturing industry and their economic impact domestically and internationally.
In May 2019, Lisa was appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp as a Board Member for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) serving as the Seventh Congressional District Representative. Lisa will serve a four year term on the State Board which is responsible for establishing standards, regulations and policies for the operation of the TCSG. As a part of her responsibilities she will serve on the Economic Development Committee.
Winton Machine is a member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Lisa has taken an active role in advocacy for trade, education, and workforce development. She has been invited to participate in joint meetings between NAM and White House representatives. Lisa also serves as an industry panelist and speaker on topics covering trade, STEM and the aging manufacturing workforce.
Lisa is also a volunteer leader in the greater Atlanta community. She currently serves as a Chairman’s appointee on the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Partnership Gwinnett 2nd Chair on Workforce Development Committee. Since 2014, she serves as an advisory board member for the Collins Hill High School cStem Program and Career and Technical Education Committees.
She is a patron of public art and serves as the Suwanee Public Arts Commission Chair. Lisa formerly served as a member on the Gwinnett Shelter Fund Development Committee for Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) and was inducted into the PADV Legacy Society. She is also a past president of the Junior League of Gwinnett and North Fulton Counties.
Lisa is a University of Florida graduate with a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration. She is a Leadership Gwinnett graduate and served as chair for the Economics Day, Behind the Scenes Education, and Outreach and Inclusion committee. She is also a graduate of SBDC Fast Trac, GrowSmart, SBA Emerging Leaders and ExportGA programs.
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Atlanta Business Radio, spotlighting the city's best businesses and the people who lead them.
Sanjay Toure: Good morning. This is Sanjay Toure. And welcome back to another episode of Tuesdays with Corey with your host, Corey Rieck. Today's show is sponsored by our dear friends at The Long Term Care Planning Group. I always say this is one of my favorite shows on the Business RadioX platform simply because it just showcases and highlights women and all the amazing things that they're doing. So, thank you so much again, Corey Rieck, for just being the host of the show and showcasing our women and amazing things that they do. And here's your amazing host, Corey Rieck.
Corey Rieck: Sanjay, thank you very much. We appreciate that. Of course, the Tuesdays was with Corey Show, we highlight and we talk about all the great contributions that women are making to their communities, to their organizations, and to their industries. And today, I think we've outdone ourselves today because we have another great guest. And today's guest is Lisa Winton. And Lisa is the CEO and co-owner of Winton Machine Company, a company that she's been involved with since 1997. Lisa's current responsibilities with Winton Machine Company include overseeing sales, marketing, finance, human resources and business development. Unquestionably, Lisa brings a wealth of business success and experience to our show today. Lisa, welcome.
Lisa Winton: Thank you so much for having me.
Corey Rieck: Well, you're gonna be a great guest, and you have a wealth of business experience, Lisa. Introduce yourself a little bit further in your experience to the listenership, if you would.
Lisa Winton: So, I came to Atlanta from University of Florida, and I just fell in love with the city back then. It was a young, vibrant city. And it's grown a great deal because that was many years before the Olympics. So, I've just watched the city grow up, and it's kind of fun. And I'm just really happy to be here. I've started our company. My husband and I started our company back in 1997. Prior to that, I had a career in retail, and I worked for several companies here in the Metro Atlanta area in store management, in buying, in planning. And so, it's led me to the career I have now.
Corey Rieck: How has your past experience helped you run your company now?
Lisa Winton: Well, that's a really interesting question, because I think back to when I graduated from college, and I moved here, and actually worked for Toys R' Us at the time, and I was in their management training program, which was a great opportunity, I was 21 years old, and I had the opportunity to manage about 70 people, which is frightening to even think about right now that they would allow that.
Corey Rieck: How was that experience for you? You must have learned a great deal.
Lisa Winton: Oh, I mean, I learned. I learned, and I learned to be humble, and I learned to depend on my people because I had to do things like put a bicycle together, unload a truck, stock shelves as part of the training program. And I feel today that that is invaluable because I think that you can't manage people without really understanding the jobs that they do.
Corey Rieck: I agree with you 100 percent. I think it's important for you to be able to coach him. I'm not sure how you could coach him unless you've kind of walked in their shoes. And in your case, assembled toys and so on. I remember my nephew, for his fifth birthday, I went to Toys R' Us, and they loved me. Anything for my nephews I would buy there. And I went there. And this was some time ago. And I pulled these little kids together and I said, 'Hey, if you had a really cool uncle like me, what would he buy you for your fifth birthday?" And they all point to this thing. And it was this thing called the Dune Racer. And it was like a little mini dune buggy. And I remember thinking, "Oh, okay, cool." So, I looked at the model on the floor, and I said, "Okay, well, I'll take that."
And I go upfront, and I pay for it. And I'm sitting up there kind of minding my own business. And then, these two huge boxes come up, and I say offhandedly to the cashier, I said, "What's that?" She goes with a straight face, "That's your dune buggy." And then, she followed that up by saying, "Some assembly is required." And I remember thinking, "Wow, that's really subjective." And so, now, I have another problem. I’ve got to be at my nephew's birthday in another day, and I have to get this thing put together.
So, I go back to the hotel. And thankfully, the night manager thought it was really cool that I was buying my nephew this dune racer, and he said, "Wow, I'd really love to put that together." And I thought, "I think maybe we can make that happen." That was a best $50 I ever spent because it never would have looked like it did if I put that together. So, I think that that's excellent that you were able to do that and get that experience. How did you like working for Toys R' Us?
Lisa Winton: It would be hard for me to say it was the hardest job I've ever had because I think owning and running a company probably surpasses that, but it was grueling. When you think about I would go to work at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning, and during certain times of the year, I would not leave until 2:00 a.m. in the morning. And so, I can't even imagine now looking back at that. And there aren't that many people that would be willing to put in the number of hours that we put in during those years.
Corey Rieck: Seventy people, you managed, and you were 21? 22?
Lisa Winton: 21, 21.
Corey Rieck: How did you do that?
Lisa Winton: 21, 22. They did prepare you well. Their management program was really good. And there were different phases to that program, and I'm a really big advocate of management training programs. There aren't as many anymore as there were back in the day. But I think that there was classroom training, there was on-the-job training, and there was a lot of leadership training. And I think it was invaluable. But I made a lot of mistakes. And you learn from those mistakes along the way. And I had some wonderful supervisors that really helped guide me as well. And I think, depending on the people that are around, your biggest asset is your people. So, having a great staff really helped me out a lot.
Corey Rieck: Do you think it made a difference that you had the experience assembling the toys and working, sort of, with the people? You sort of have had the experience of doing the jobs of the people you were managing. Do you think that made an impact in your credibility with your folks that you were managing?
Lisa Winton: I think definitely. I think if I just basically punched the clock, if I just basically worked a 9:00 to 5:00 and I left, I don't think that they would have the respect for me. But because I stayed until the job was done, because I didn't ask anything of them that I wouldn't ask of myself, I think that's one of the keys of gaining the respect of the folks that you work with.
Corey Rieck: I don't think there's any question about that. So, from Toys R' Us, you were there how long?
Lisa Winton: I was with Toys R' US for maybe two years.
Corey Rieck: It sounds like you gained a lot of great experience there.
Lisa Winton: Yeah, it might have been three years. It was a long time ago. I'm going to give away my age here, but I worked for them for a few years. And then, I just had this aha moment, and I realized that, "Wow! I really want to be a buyer, and I'd have to move to New Jersey." And I really like Atlanta. And then I was thinking that I don't know if that's really realistic. So, then, one of the other managers I worked with at the time, he said, "I really could see working at Macy's, I could just see that white flower, that white carnation on you." And I said, "Really?" And he said, "Yeah." He said, "You can go into the buying offices or here, a local in Atlanta." And so, we talked about it for a while. So, I said, "I'm going to check that out." So, I went ahead and applied for the program, and I actually went to their management training program here in Atlanta. And it was one the South-Eastern headquarters was located in downtown Atlanta.
Corey Rieck: How was their training program different than what you experienced at Toys R' Us or was it different?
Lisa Winton: I think that all, probably, management training programs have some components that are similar. But it was definitely a completely different environment. And the-
Corey Rieck: How so?
Lisa Winton: The training program there wasn't that you didn't really have a lot of classroom, and a lot of it was hands-on learning, and you had to move from different .. like you manage different areas, and it was really just working and being mentored.
Corey Rieck: How does your experience with Toys R' Us prepare you for your time as a buyer at Macy's?
Lisa Winton: Well, so going from managing as many people as I did at Toys R' Us, and having different shifts, and working with so many different people really made it easier to move in to management at Macy's because it was very similar. You're still in retail. The end of the day, it's all similar. And then, in the way that Macy's worked was you were in the stores, and then you went to assistant buyer. And the assistant buyer level, you worked with your buyer. And I had wonderful opportunities there. I had a really great buyer that I worked with, and I really, really enjoyed it.
Lisa Winton: And when I worked at the store, I actually worked downtown as well. So, I had the exposure to all of the executives, and several executives had offices right behind my department. So, they were very critical. And in fact, I can remember I had this towel wall that just went from the floor, I felt like, to the ceiling. And if any towel was ever not folded or in place, a call would be made to the management office saying that your towel wall needs to be fixed. And so, it made me really attuned to details and making sure that my folks on my floor were also to make sure that they were very detail oriented.
Corey Rieck: What sounds like your experience at Toys R' Us really set you up for the success you had at Macy's? Then, what was the next step after that, your experience at Macy's?
Lisa Winton: So, at Macy's, I really enjoyed buying. And I was an assistant buyer. And then, unfortunately, the Southeastern division was closed. And so, we had purchased Bullocks out in California while I was in the buying offices and that was really fun. But then, they went ahead and closed the offices here and it was just San Francisco and New York. So, I had a moment that I had to decide, do I want to go to New York? Do I wanna go to San Francisco? Or my other option was to go back into the stores. And I was married at the time, and I was here, and we were settled. And I just said the best thing would be to stay with the company, go back into the store. So, I did. And I went ran several departments at the Perimeter store.
Corey Rieck: You've had a lot of great experience with what you've done at Toys R' Us and the training you receive there, managing 70 people and the buying. How that been advantageous for you for what you do now?
Lisa Winton: Definitely. Because owning a business, like when you first start, you are everything, right? You are the janitor. You are the purchasing person. Our company, we started at the basement of our house. And so, my husband is the engineer, and I was the business side. And so, for years, I did purchasing. And that purchasing came natural to me because I had done buying before. And so, I knew the way a buyer thinks at that point in time, and I knew the questions to ask. And if I had not had any of that buying experience, I think purchasing would have been very difficult.
Lisa Winton: And I think managing people is very difficult if you have not had any sort of management training experience. And I've seen that firsthand because we've put people into positions that we should have given them more training. And it really wasn't fair to them. It was definitely our fault. I think as a leader, you have to take responsibility a lot of times for a lot of the things that go wrong.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, there's no question about that. It sounds like you've been extremely effective at building teams. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
Lisa Winton: I think that's a fair assessment. I think that, it's always the most difficult part of a business, whether it's your business, it's someone else's business, you're a manager. I think no matter what level of supervisor you are, I think you're dealing with a lot of personalities. And a lot of times, we have to remember that people have lives outside of the company. And so, you don't know what's going on in their lives outside. You don't know what's walking in every morning.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, hundred percent. So, you’re splitting your time between overseeing sales, marketing, HR, and business development. How do you spend your time given the enormity of those responsibilities?
Lisa Winton: So, for sales, we have a strong sales force of very, very experienced people. So, I'm just really a support person where that's concerned. And marketing, I have a wonderful marketing consultant whom I work with and she keeps me on track. Teresa does a really great job of making sure that I stay on task. And she gives me my list, and she follows back up with me to make sure that I've gotten everything to her that I need to.
Corey Rieck: Yes, I would say knowing Teresa, one of the things she's ... well, one of the many things she's excellent at is keeping things on task and making sure the ball is getting moved down the field.
Lisa Winton: Yes. Because that's one of the hardest things. Everyone says, "I can multi-task so well." None of us can multitask well. Really, the reality is we can do one thing and one thing well, and then we need to move on to the next thing. And so, she really forces me like with deadlines, and she follows back up, "I need this by this date." And so, it keeps me on track when it comes to marketing, which marketing feeds sales. I mean, marketing is the thrust. It's so important. And it's always the first thing to go in a company.
Corey Rieck: What about HR? So, what are your thoughts on that and your involvement there?
Lisa Winton: So, I use a PEO company. And so, a lot of the technical things are done through that PEO company. But you're still ultimately responsible for feeding that. I am the, I guess, last man standing. So, we have a manufacturing manager and we have supervisors. So, when things get to me, they've usually gotten to the point where I need to mediate, or I just need to listen. And sometimes, people just need to be heard. I mean, that's the most important thing at the end of the day is that you feel like you've been heard.
Corey Rieck: I picked up that your team and building your people are very important to you. You made a comment earlier about you're not sure what people are dealing with. It would appear that you have a very, very strong perspective toward work/life balance and that you want your folks at work for you to have that. Is that accurate?
Lisa Winton: It is accurate. It could be a challenge. So, we have ... flexible, right? Flexibility in our work hours. And what does that mean? What does flexibility mean, right?
Corey Rieck: What does that mean? Yes.
Lisa Winton: It's a very hard thing because I've heard of companies that instead of having PTO, instead of having a number of hours that folks have vacation or sick days, they have unlimited. And I say, how could you have unlimited vacation policy? How does that work? I mean, I can't even begin to imagine how that works. So, we're not that flexible, but we are flexible enough that when we started our company, we had a newborn baby. And I know that I want that flexibility. When my kids had an event at school, there was a performance, maybe I wanted to go and have lunch with them, I didn't want to miss those opportunities. I didn't want to look back and say I'd never had the opportunity to go into school and have lunch with my child.
So, I felt the same way for my employees. I felt like if they want to go have lunch during the day with their child, they should be able to. If there is something in the morning that they have to do, they have to drop off at daycare. I mean, the reality is most of my folks, if they're married, both are working. So, why is it that the men can't drop off? Why does the women always have to drop off? So, the majority of my workforce is men. So, sometimes, they have to drop off at daycare. So, what we do is we have flexibility. And what time do you start? But that means if you're committing to starting at 7:00 a.m., you need to be there clocked in at 7:00 a.m., not 7:15, not 7:10, but 7:00.
And so, we were finding that was kind of a difficulty was we were really flexible for years. And then, we found that people were taking advantage of those policies. So, we have constant conversations about that, about the fact that I want to keep that flexibility there, so that you can have that work-life balance. But there are times that we're super busy, and we're going to ask a lot more of you. We're going to ask you to be here to make sure that the product gets out the door and that our customers served. And then, there's going to be times that if your regular schedule is 7:00. I really need you here at 6:30, I'm going to ask.
Corey Rieck: Do you feel like given the flexibility you give your folks that it really puts you in a good position to ask for more in those times when your company is very, very busy? I mean, it would seem so looking from where I'm sitting,.
Lisa Winton: I think that asking your folks for more is more than just offering them flexibility. I think it's about creating a place where they feel safe, they enjoy the work environment that they're in. And we have our ups and downs. There's moments that everyone doesn't get along, right? It's not that kumbaya feeling in the workplace. But then, there's other times where everybody gets along, and it's really a great team environment. I told someone yesterday, I said, "There is no person at our company that's any more important than another." So, we are dependent on every single person at that building to make sure that from the point of the initial contact with a customer to the point that the machine ships out the door to even be on an installation on the floor and to follow up service. So, I think creating the environment as a whole and the relationships allow you more flexibility to ask.
Corey Rieck: Why, I think, it sounds like you've done an extremely good job of setting your team up and building a team. On any team that I've ever played on, sometimes, you're the best player; sometimes, you're the most prepared; sometimes, guys have bad games; and sometimes, people have a difficult time. And really, the last thing you need to say to anybody that's going through a difficult time is, "Hey, you didn't really play that well," or "Hey, you really had a lousy day yesterday." And so, it seems like you've established that culture where it's a team-first mentality, and people are kind of open, and you built that team environment and that culture where it's about the team.
Lisa Winton: Well, we are trying. Every day is a struggle. And I'll be honest, we created our core values. Last year, we-
Corey Rieck: How did you do that?
Lisa Winton: ... created our core values. I had someone come in and meet with all of the folks that went in, some individually, some in groups, and really talked about our culture, talked about what they thought, what was important. And then, from there, guided those core values.
Corey Rieck: And what are they?
Lisa Winton: So, helping others is one of our real key core values. And so, that goes back to the teamwork. And so, it's really hard when you have so many really great experienced people. It's hard for them to stop what they're doing to help somebody else. Right now, one of the reasons we picked helping others was because in the manufacturing world, workforce development is the key buzz word because we're really having a difficult time. We went through a 10-year period of time where people just didn't go into manufacturing jobs, where high schools took out their technical programs, where technical colleges weren't funded, where so many different things happened, and parents. Parents were a big part of that and continue to be a big part of that because parents are like, "Well, my child's going to go to a four-year school and graduate with a bachelor's degree." And so, they're not looking at what's best for their child or necessarily what their child wants. And so, now, we have this new revolution?
Corey Rieck: Why do you think that is?
Lisa Winton: I think it's because I had a situation where somebody's ... it was a friend of mine, acquaintance. And she said to me, we were talking, and it was graduation time, and I was asking what their child was going to do after graduation. And so, she was really tentative to tell me. And her child was going on to a technical school. And so, she was going to be a hairdresser. And so, I thought that was fantastic. And I thought to myself, "Wow. Well, I know how much I pay for my hairdresser." My hairdresser only works three days a week, has a great flexible schedule, and comes home with a great income, and super happy. So, why would you not be happy for your child, is what I'm thinking?
Corey Rieck: Well, I think it's funny, we were talking before the show about when you're 19 or 20 years old, what are you supposed to do? And I think being happy is right up there at the top of the list. I think you have to take a first step. And if you are a hairdresser, hey, maybe you own the salon. You can set your own hours if it's what you love to do, fit your fast ball. I mean, I personally don't see anything wrong with that. And I'm not sure why a parent would be hesitant to talk about that if their child really enjoys that and feels strongly about that.
Lisa Winton: I think a lot of times, as parents, we have this vision of our child, and we have this vision of what we would like them to do. And I think it's really hard to step away and let that child figure out what they want to do on their own because we need to be the support system for them. But, ultimately, we can't make the decision of what's going to make them happy in life. So, with technical schools, we're really lucky in Georgia. We have 22 technical colleges here in Georgia, and we lead the nation. And I think most people don't know that. We're one of the only technical college systems in the country that the Department of Labor has given us a certain stature. And I think that we're in the right direction here in Georgia as far as our high schools and new programs that we're putting in, and how they're feeding, and our dual enrollment. So, I think that that's why Georgia is the number one place to operate a business.
Corey Rieck: Does that afford the opportunity to find talent, having so many technical schools here in the State of Georgia? Is that helpful for your business?
Lisa Winton: It is. So, two of the young kids that are working in our electrical department are direct results, actually, of the technical high school in Gwinnett County.
Corey Rieck: Oh, great.
Lisa Winton: Maxwell Technical High School. And that basic knowledge that they received really helped when they came in the door because they were one step ahead. And then, we could teach them from there. And so, we were talking earlier about all of these great folks I have with years and years of experience, the helping others core value is so important because I'm really trying to ... they've embraced helping these younger kids who are just coming out of school. And the younger kids are really enjoying learning from them because they admire them, and they see how much knowledge that they have.
Corey Rieck: That's really neat that you've set that up, and you're certainly able to help kids follow up on something that they think is of interest to them, I think, I remember when I was getting going, I had no clue what I was going to do. I did a couple of internships, and I took my first job. But that, taking that perspective, and having the mentoring, and really getting your hands dirty, and doing the jobs that are in your company, I think that's really helpful for somebody to figure out, hey, is this something I want to do, and is this a direction I need to go in? And certainly, with the mentors that you've set up at your company and you, you can also comment on that, I'm sure.
Lisa Winton: Yeah. I think internships are so important. So, for any listener that has the opportunity to provide internships, I encourage you to. And as a manufacturer and a small manufacturer, it's really hard. We don't have a formalized program. And we have learned throughout the process that we need to have a little bit more formalized program, so that the kids have an expectation. So, at that point in time, a lot of times, it's their first job. So, we're teaching them that, like we talked about, if you're supposed be here at 7:00, then you're supposed to be here at 7:00 to clock in. And when you are sick, you pick up a phone and you call. And just some basic things that you think are automatic, but they're really not. And so, it's a soft skills. It's how to talk to people. It's how to ask questions. It's how to take initiative. And then, also, they're working on our manufacturing floor. And so, they're learning how to put things together, and they're learning great mechanical skills. And so, some of them are going to go on to become engineers, and they will become much better engineers because they had that practical experience.
Corey Rieck: Hundred percent. If they're putting things together, if they're getting that experience, I think that can only help them become better and decide, sort of, further what direction their career should take.
Lisa Winton: Now, I was recently talking with a colleague who's had a very large manufacturing facility, and he was telling me about their internship program. And so, their interns tend to intern with them for three years. And then, the majority of them that have interned for three years, they're offered positions. So, it's a great opportunity for the students as well to get in a position when they graduate, whether it'd be a technical school or a just a standard four-year university. But now, you really need some sort of education outside of high school. But there is a lot of mid-level jobs, and that's what manufacturing offers is mid-level jobs. That's what our technical colleges are helping prepare that workforce for.
Corey Rieck: It seems like the internship program is a win-win all the way around. I mean, the companies that have a student for a summer or three years, that's a summer or three-year interview-
Lisa Winton: It is.
Corey Rieck: ... for the company to determine, hey, does this is person fit? And vice versa. I think you're doing a great thing for the students by giving them that experience and giving them perspective they need to figure out, hey, is this the direction that I want to go in?
Lisa Winton: And that's one of the mistakes that we learned was that you need to provide feedback. So, if it's a student that you're probably not going to ask back, well, why aren't you going to ask them back? Because it's a safe environment for them to learn from that experience. And so, you need to give them that feedback.
Corey Rieck: How do you do that?
Lisa Winton: Be honest, and you sit down with them, and just like you would do a review with an individual, and you basically give them a review.
Corey Rieck: Do you have a set of parameters and a set of questions that you go over with them? And do you have them fill out an evaluation to let you know how they think they're doing or how does that work for you?
Lisa Winton: Well, actually, that's a really good idea. We should probably do that. So, we are working on a process. So, when we talk about business - people, process, product - those are the three main keys. We've talked a lot about people, which is always one of the most difficult things. Process is probably the other most difficult thing for us. And so, as a small company, I think process - probably a large company as well -but a small company, growing company, processes are so important. So, that was something we learned by making mistakes. We felt like we didn't do a good enough job. And so, we have put in a process in which we have feedback forms and that our supervisors meet with and give verbal feedback to the interns.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, that's really important for them too, to have that, I would imagine and have something. It sounds like it would be written, and it's something that they can take with them, and work on going forward.
Lisa Winton: Yes. And I know the high school that we work with, one of the high schools we work with, they actually have a forum that they give us every few months that we have to fill out. It's a feedback form. And so, at first, I found my supervisors were giving them all really great marks. And I said, "Okay, you need to be really honest because this is not helping the student." If there are areas for improvement, we need to let them know. And so, we should be letting them know before we give this paper to the school. And so, that's another thing that we learned.
Corey Rieck: So you've had all of this experience with Toys R' Us and with Macy's. And in the late '90s, you and your husband started your company. What led you to do that?
Lisa Winton: Well, it kind of happened by mistake also. It was-
Corey Rieck: How so?
Lisa Winton: It was definitely not purposeful. So, my husband was one of those kids who went to high school, and he didn't really apply himself, but he did work on cars. And his dad had a machine shop, and he worked around that since a young child. So, he got to the point where his parents said he wasn't going to go to college. His parents said you need to get some sort of training for a job. So, he went to a technical high school his last year and a half. And then, he did an apprenticeship as a machinist. And so, he decided, I think about two years in, that he did want to go back to school, like anyone, to become an engineer.
Lisa Winton: So, he went to the county college. And then, he went on from there. And he went to Rutgers and graduated with honors as an engineer. So, he had a really strong engineering background and manufacturing background. He worked for several different manufacturers, and he wrote an article for a publication. And in that article, he was talking about tube bending. And so, we got a call about the article asking if we can make tube benders. Well, we didn't have anything. We had a screwdriver, a hammer. There is nothing in our house. Just the average things that you would have in your garage.
Corey Rieck: And of course, you said, "Of course, we can do that."
Lisa Winton: Of course, we can do that. Yes. He said, "Of course, we can do that." So, we figured it out. And so, from there, we started buying. We thought, "I think that this is something maybe that we want to start doing." And so, we started purchasing machinery. But if he had not had that machinist background, he would have never been able to do it. We talked about having to do everything when you start, right? So, he was a machinist when we started.
Lisa Winton: So, we started. Our basement became a machine shop before you knew it. I was still working at another job for Health Benefits. In 1997, we had a baby. We bought a car and he quit his job. So, it's called ... we just took the chance. We took the leap, and we got our first order for a machine to bend post for bicycles from Macon, Georgia. And we were in full operation assembling in our garage. And we had an office upstairs in the bedroom. And then, we hired our first part-time employee. And then, after that, we moved into our first facility. And we're really happy to say that that employee is still with us today. And his son, this is his second year interning with us. He's an engineering major at Mercer, and he's gonna be a fabulous engineer someday.
Corey Rieck: What a great story. I think that that is the most unique story we've heard on the show in two years, Sanjay, about how somebody got into their business. Certainly, that's excellent. How is it that you've done so well in an arena that's so traditionally male-dominated?
Lisa Winton: That's such an interesting thing because if you had asked me, "Would you be in manufacturing?" I would have said, "Absolutely not." When I graduated and I was in retail, I was surrounded by lots and lots of women in the retail industry. But the interesting part is I belong to a C level women's manufacturing group. I am part of Next Generation Manufacturing here in the Metro Atlanta area. And they actually just had a Women in Manufacturing event. There is women in manufacturing organizations now. We're working really hard with STEM and working in the schools at really trying to get the girls more involved in engineering and sciences. And my sister-in-law is a machinist.
So, I think that ... and I've seen strides at our company. We have our first female engineer on staff. My manufacturing manager is a woman. I've gone into plants all around the United States where there are lots of women on the assembly lines. So, I think the more and more advanced that we get, I think that we'll be able to start seeing more and more women. I think we started seeing more women in civil engineering and certain engineering fields, but we're starting to see a few more a mechanical, and that's what our engineering is. She was a mechanical engineering major.
Corey Rieck: How are you inspiring other women to get into manufacturing?
Lisa Winton: Through working with schools and education. So, it started with working with a STEM education in the schools. And one of the things that I started last year was field trips for the kids and trying to get them into facilities, so that they can actually see hands-on operation, see all the different jobs that are available. Because people think of manufacturing, they just think of a manufacturing floor. But a manufacturing company has every type of job available to it whether, we talked about sales, marketing, finance. You'll see a lot of you'll see a lot of female CFOs in manufacturing companies.
Corey Rieck: Why is that?
Lisa Winton: I think because you see more females in the financial world. And so, I've met more and more female CFOs. In my women's manufacturing group, the women are either CEOs of manufacturing companies or their own companies. Some, they've started and developed new products. So, I think we're starting to see more women developing products too. So, we're starting to see it on the entrepreneurial stage. So, that's another thing when you ask like, "How do you get involved?" Well, I get involved at the entrepreneurial stage in the schools of helping the students. And so, it's not just girls, but we're trying to get more girls into the programs, get them more excited about things that they're excited about, because it may just be the product that excites them. I think you're seeing more women in programming now than you ever have before. So, I think there's a shift and a change. It's going to take some time. I think as we see more CEOs and more high-level executives that are women, I think you'll see that. I mean, General Motors has a female CEO.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it sounds like you're incredibly supportive of helping young women learn more about what it is you do.
Lisa Winton: Yes. I mean, that's the key is education, right? Because a school can only teach so much, and kids learn from books and learn in the classroom, and the teachers tell us. So, we do shadowing, teacher shadowing as well. The teachers come in each year, and they shadow us, and see what we do in a manufacturing world, and see what opportunities there are. And then, they talk to us about, what do we need to see in the students because our education system is a bit antiquated when you really think about it for today's world. And so, it's really the business community working together with the educational community.
Corey Rieck: Do you think the perspective that may be out there about women in manufacturing may have something to do with a predisposition, that's not something women are supposed to do kind of a thing?
Lisa Winton: Well, I think manufacturing's gotten a bad rap overall. I mean, I think that we think about dirty manufacturing floors. And so, you think you wouldn't see a woman in a dirty manufacturing floor. You think of men's mentality, shop talk, all of these different things that you think about. But manufacturing has changed, has evolved, is automated. I'm not going to tell you that there's not manufacturing facilities that are not ... you can't eat off the floor, but I will tell you that there is a lot of manufacturing out there that is just state of the art. I mean, they're using Google Glass. They're using co-bots there. It is so automated. And so, women can be involved in the automation just like a man can. And also, the very detail-oriented jobs, it's very interesting, when you tour a manufacturing facility, you'll see a lot of women in very detail=oriented jobs. And maybe that's because-
Corey Rieck: Aren't they better with that?
Lisa Winton: I think they must be better with that because I can think of a couple different manufacturing facilities, and the women are doing the very, very detailed jobs that I think those companies, at least, have told me that the women are doing a better job at it.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. How are you getting your new clients, your new customers?
Lisa Winton: So, we talked about marketing before, right? Everything kind of starts with marketing. And so, it's the opportunity to get your name out. Everything these days is internet. I mean, if we had a website back in like ... shoot. I think we had a website like ... I'll date my ... I, probably, would give you an accurate data here to tell you exact date. But we did have a website when they first really started coming out. And it was very antiquated when I think about it now, all in html. But my husband did a great job, and we got pictures up online, and we went from there. And we're on our third website now.
Lisa Winton: And so, the web is so important. I mean, I think for those of you that know manufacturing, you know that Thomas registry where these big massive volume books, they came on the shelf, and we used to advertise in those books. And then, when they went to like floppies, we were like really excited. And then, they went to online. And so, really, search engine optimization, it's everything that you can do to drive people to your website. So, it's your blogs, it's your writing, it's giving information to your users. You used to take keywords, but I don't want to go to a website that says tube bender 15 or 20 times on a page. What good does that do me? But if you give me a good article that I can read and I can learn from. So, one of the things that we did was George wrote an article for seven years for a technical publication. And we have all of those articles up on our website. So, it's great information for our customers-
Corey Rieck: I bet that's really helpful.
Lisa Winton: ... to come to. And we'll look at the statistics a lot of times at what pages people are coming to, and they're coming to those articles because those articles are helpful for them in their everyday life. And we're searching differently now than we ever searched before. We're really just searching for information now. So, it's okay if someone comes to your website 20 times, and they don't buy something, or they don't call you here. The hope is, eventually, they're going to give you a call and they need something.
And so, I always took that Macys philosophy. And maybe it's my days at Macy's, but you can remember Miracle on 34th Street. And you know how Santa said if someone came to him and Macy's didn't have it, but Gimbels had it, they'd send him down to Gimbels. So, we have the same philosophy. If a customer calls us and we can't do it, we want to make sure that we can send them to somebody that we feel confident they can do it.
So, marketing, all the different aspects of marketing. We don't really do a whole lot of cold calling. We send out newsletters. We have a database of customers. Our existing customers, word of mouth. Today, one of our customers is kind enough to allow us to bring some other customers into their facility to see a machine in operation.
Corey Rieck: That's cool.
Lisa Winton: So, those relationships. I think selling is all about relationships. And, at the end of the day, I just want to solve my customer's problems. So, I hope that they can feel like when they come to us that that first contact all the way to the end. And so, we're not just selling a product because they can buy it from China. They can buy a tube bender from China, and a lot less than ours. So, I want to make sure that we're solving their specific problem, and we're not giving them more than they need either. I don't want to upsell them something that they don't need.
Corey Rieck: Well, it's obvious to me that relationships are paramount to you. And I think another thing that has served you well is you've taken this educational perspective. And I think that's allowed people to sort of come to you as opposed to you pursuing them. Do you think that's accurate?
Lisa Winton: I think that's accurate. I think that once you get involved in your community, and you get involved in various things, I think you kind of find your passions, and then you find your connection. And so, we were talking before the show about what you're ... the one thing that ... time. Time is that one thing that you can only have a limited amount of. And so, how do you use that time to really get everything that you want done and to make the biggest difference? And so, for me, I feel like, now, I have the opportunity to serve. I know I'm very happy to have been appointed to the State Board for Technical Colleges in Georgia. And so, now, I'm making relationships with the different colleges. And having those relationships, and learning from the high school level, and be able to make those connections, be able to make those connections to other manufacturers that I know, and networking with other manufacturers because I learned so much from them. And every conversation, I learn more and more that helps my business.
Corey Rieck: What's your greatest challenge in your business now?
Lisa Winton: People.
Corey Rieck: How so?
Lisa Winton: People. It's always people. That always comes down to people. It is having the right people on the bus. You know that old expression-
Corey Rieck: Sitting in the right seats.
Lisa Winton: Are they sitting in the right seats? Has the position outgrown them as you've grown? Are they able to keep up? Accountability. Are they giving you 110%. How people are talking to one another, how they're working together as a team? Are all the cogs and the wheel turning, right? Sometimes, they're out of line for one reason or another. And when you when you get to the point where you have personal relationships with people, you have to be able to disconnect for that as well for what's better for the company and better for the team overall. So, it's hard because if you had the perfect person in every position, your company would just rock, right, if it was that easy. And if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it.
Corey Rieck: Well, I think you've touched on a number of things there. I think it's important to get along, and have personal relationships. But I think it's equally important to be able to have that disconnect if something needs to be done, and we need a course correction. That's certainly something that is important to be able to bring up and to be able to deliver.
Lisa Winton: It is. And I know that I've benefited from a business coach because it's good to have somebody. There's two things I've benefited. Actually, three. I've benefited from a business coach, which is on a personal and professional level. And it gives you a good insight because, sometimes, you do get too personal, and you need somebody to give you that perspective. I belong to that women's manufacturing group, and we meet a couple of times a year. And so, that's really great for best practices and for resolving issues. And then, I belong to a group that meets. And it's like 112 or 13 business owners of varying sizes. I'm probably one of the small ones in the group. And so, we have speakers, and we share share stories. And it's a great place to even vent, but to talk about what's going on to process your issues. And so, I'm a firm believer in all those resources, and helping you, and continuing to learn.
Corey Rieck: Well, the business coach thing, I think is ... I found a lot of value in that. We were talking prior to the show about our experience with that because I think, as the owner and the CEO, if you ask an employee, maybe there is the question in the back of the owner's mind, am I getting the straight scoop here? Am I being told what they think I want to hear? Am I being told what I need to hear? And I think with a coach, I think it's important to get it unvarnished and to hear what you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear. And I think that that's priceless.
And I think, as a business owner, to be able to go to a group and say, "Hey, I'm having this issue. It's issue X, and I'm not really sure how to go about it," and maybe somebody who's already been through it, and they can say, "Well, Lisa, maybe you might consider this or you might consider that." And those groups I've found to be very helpful because, again, you get the unvarnished opinion. Nobody has an axe to grind. Nobody stands to profit or whatever. They're looking out for your best interest.
Lisa Winton: And they're going to be honest. That's what you had to be…
Corey Rieck: Brutally honest.
Lisa Winton: They're going to be brutally honest.
Corey Rieck: Carefrontation, right?
Lisa Winton: Yes. Yes, definitely.
Corey Rieck: So, you've been invited on the show because you have a lot of success, and you've been favorably introduced by someone that we hold in high esteem. Tell us what sets you apart. And tell us what sets your company apart.
Lisa Winton: I'd say that what sets our company apart is our products. I think that many of our products are outstanding. I think they're value priced, but I wouldn't say that I stand on just price. I would say that it's experience. I think it's the whole process, the sales process. It's a fact that we go into the sales process with the end user, the customer in mind. We're not trying to upsell. We're trying to resolve their pain point. We want to make sure that their manufacturing process is the best that it can be. We want to make sure that our products on their floor are saving them money, that they're getting the return on their investment quickly.
Lisa Winton: And that labor is a problem for everybody. We talked about unemployment rate being low, and there's a lot of jobs out there that go unfilled. And as baby boomers continue to retire, that's only going to get worse. So, automation is important. And so, that's what we do. We automate processes. So, I think what really sets us apart is the whole process. It's that we're not just selling you a product; we're selling you a solution, and we're there well after you receive your product. So, if you call us, we're going to be there. We're going to make sure you're up and running. Sometimes, it's painful because, sometimes, somebody's machine might get put off to the side a little bit because somebody else's machine is down in the field. But we feel like down the field means you're losing money every moment, and we want to make sure that you're up and running. And so, I think the fact that we really care about our customers, and we care about their businesses, and that we want to make sure that they're succeeding, I think that makes us stand out.
Corey Rieck: It seems like from knowing you and spending the time with you last hour or so, it seems like you've done a very, very good job of creating what I would term consultative engagement, where you're really looking to help the client. And sometimes, it means that they do the business with you; and sometimes, it means they do it with someone else. And I think if I'm that client, and you're honest with me and say, "Hey, I can't do that, but here, Sanjay over here, she can do that," I mean, I think your credibility goes up markedly with someone like that. And that would that would resonate with me. And I think people don't want to be sold. I think they want to be helped, they want to get their questions answered, and they want to be talked to in a way that's similar to how you may want them to talk to your parents, and just look out for them, and help me out. So, I think you've done a tremendous job of doing that. What's the thing that brings you the most satisfaction with your company?
Lisa Winton: I'd say there's a couple things. I'd say, one, when a machine leaves the dock, it's installed, and there's no problems. Probably, that gives you a lot of satisfaction because you know that they're up and running, and there's no follow up needed immediately. But I'd say, really, what gives me the most satisfaction is I love creating jobs HR can be headaches at times, but at the end of the day, I love when I can create a job because when you pull into the parking lot, and you park your car, and you're looking at all the other ... someone told me this probably in my group, but you're looking at all those other cars in the parking lot, and you know that they're all depending on you at the end of the day because you're the driver. And so, I think it's just creating jobs.
Corey Rieck: We've spent some time talking about automation, and the internet, and some of the things you're doing there. How else has your business evolved over the years?
Lisa Winton: Well, our product line has evolved. So, that one machine that we built in our basement in 1998 to over a hundred machines, a hundred different machines we've built today, we are constantly evolving, and growing, and building new machinery that are not one of a kind, like a machine that we developed just maybe four years ago, and we've probably sold our 12th machine now of that particular machine. So, we are constantly evolving and growing our products. And that is a direct result of listening to our clients.
Corey Rieck: Your clients and customers, are they repeat clients? Do they do more than one piece of business with you? Walk us through that.
Lisa Winton: So, you'll have a small company that will buy a piece of machinery and may not buy another piece of machinery for years to come because machinery lasts a long time, but they are going to need spare parts and tooling and so forth. Then, now, there's so many mergers and acquisitions out there, and especially in the HVAC and refrigeration world. So, we had a customer last year that we put machinery in, I think, six or seven other facilities. And they came back this year, and we're putting it in two more facilities. So, it's kind of across the board.
Corey Rieck: You have won so many awards that I think that we are going to need a separate show to talk about them. But if you had to pick two or three, what two or three awards that you've won over the years have you been the most proud of?
Lisa Winton: I would say on a personal level, I've been very committed to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence.
Corey Rieck: How did you get involved with that?
Lisa Winton: So, I got involved with that. I was president of my local junior league of Gwinnett North Fulton Counties, and we were very involved at the time in early childhood education and reading. And so, I got involved with United Way in our area, and we did a big book drive. And then, the woman, at the time, that I worked with, she moved on to Partnership Against Domestic Violence. And she moved to one of the shelters. And she was doing fundraising. And she called me, invited me, and she definitely had a reason behind that because she wanted me to be part of the fund development committee. And so, I joined on board.
But I think part of that reason why I joined on board was, at the time, I knew someone in my life who had been through domestic violence, and it was connected to work, and I went through a really, really hard time with her. And I saw she grew up in an environment as a child. And then, that cycle of abuse continued as an adult. And I saw how the shelter could stop that cycle of abuse. And so, I just full-heartedly got involved. And I couldn't tell you if it's been six years or seven years, but I've loved every minute of it. And I think the thing I love most is when we get to do hands-on activities with the kids and spend time with the moms.
Corey Rieck: Well, that's certainly certainly impactful. You've won some other awards here. And looking in 2017, you were the Woman Business Champion. What was that about? And tell us about that.
Lisa Winton: So, any resource that's out there that doesn't cost money, I've tried to find over the years. So, we got involved with a Small Business Development Center back at the very, very beginning. And this is going to tell you because it was VHS tapes at the library that we checked out on how to fund your business because college back then did not have entrepreneurial programs, and they did not prepare you. So, we went to SBDC office. We took some classes with them, and we started. Darrell Hulsey was our counselor, and he still is today, 20 plus years later. And so, I have worked with them, and I have gone through several of their programs, graduated from several of their programs. So, I've gone back and spoken at their programs. And I continue to try to be a resource. I'll be speaking at their Export Georgia Program coming up here shortly. So, I guess, that was why they recognized me, I'm guessing.
Corey Rieck: I'm guessing that's probably the beginning. They probably realized all the other things that you've done, and how many people you've helped, and how many jobs you've created. And then, in 2018, I have here that you were the Pinnacle Small Business of the Year for 25 Plus eEmployees. You want to tell us about that?
Lisa Winton: Yeah. So, we're involved with our local chamber, Gwinnett Chamber, which is it's actually a very, very large and strong chamber. And so, we had been nominated several years for that award. And I have to say, it's all my marketing consultant job for pushing and prodding to apply for it. So, when we got nominated, we put in the application for it. And to be honest with you, I didn't really think we'd win. I was completely surprised. And you win in categories. And then, there's an overall. And when we won the overall, I was really surprised. But I think what I was touched more than anything was yesterday, I was meeting with an employee, and he thanked me. He said one of his best memories at Winton was going to a luncheon when we received one of our awards and that we included him in that luncheon. And he said that that he really appreciated that. And so, the award is great, but the recognition being shared with employees and that they feel that way, to me, is worth more than any specific award.
Corey Rieck: And then, there's another more recent award, the Regional Business Impact Award for Small Business in 2019.
Lisa Winton: Yes. It's kind of getting a little obnoxious there probably for us.
Corey Rieck: I told you we'd need another show. I didn't hide that.
Lisa Winton: Yeah. So, maybe we'll get the Georgia Manufacturer of the Year Award. That would be really fantastic.
Corey Rieck: All right.
Lisa Winton: But yeah. So, there are different categories. I think I can't remember which one of them, but one of them has a lot to do with more of the impact you make. So, we talked about manufacturing. And so, we're small. We're small and mighty, right? So, we only have 35 folks at Winton, but we use over 120 vendors, and we outsource a lot of stuff. And so, manufacturing has deep channels economically in the community. And so, I think we were recognized for those, for our community service. We adopted a road. There's different things that we do as a company going back to our core values. And I think it's a combination of that. I think it's a combination of our growth. We've had substantial growth the last 3 years. And then, it's the other things that I had mentioned.
Corey Rieck: Well, you've certainly done a great job of developing relationships, and in building your company, and developing relationships that flow both ways within your community. If you could give the younger version of yourself some advice, what would it be?
Lisa Winton: Wow, that's a really hard question. I mean, I knew that one ahead of time. I would say ... I hate to say don't sweat the small stuff, but really I don't think there's been anything small along the way. I don't know. I almost think ... sometimes, I think things happen the way they're supposed to happen. I really do. I would say the advice that I would give myself, I think I would get a coach earlier. I think I would have had a coach years ago. I would have joined my group earlier. If I knew what I knew now, our company would be so much larger, and I wouldn't have made all the mistakes I've made all these years. And I'm not saying I won't continue to make mistakes, but it's so much harder now because you've already made those mistakes. And now, you're trying to make up for them. And I think I would have been a lot smarter had I had that mentorship earlier.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, I would tend to agree with that. I would echo the same sentiments. If there were a young lady that wanted to follow in your footsteps, what advice or what insight would you have for her?
Lisa Winton: I would say find somebody. We talked about relationships. I guess that seems to be our key for the show. When I speak to young adults, I encourage them to find somebody that they feel strongly in as a mentor because business coach is someone you pay for, right? A mentor is just somebody that is there for you personally and professionally. And I'd say that, really, take heart of that person. People I've seen succeed in business have had mentors in their lives, and they've had really great mentors in their lives. And I think that they just help you through so much, and you need to find somebody that you connect well with.
Corey Rieck: Great advice, Lisa. You've been a great guest. We appreciated of hearing about all the successes you've had in business. And if the listenership wanted to get in touch with you, how would they go about doing that?
Lisa Winton: Well, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, and you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can come to our website, Winton Machine. You can always fill out the contact form and just put a note, send it directly to me, and I'd love to hear from you.
Corey Rieck: Well, Lisa, you've been a great guest. Continued success. Thank you for being such a great guest today on the show.
Lisa Winton: Thank you.
Sanjay Toure: That wraps up another episode of Tuesdays with Corey, with your hosts, Corey Rieck. Brought to you by our great friends at The Long Term Care Planning Group. Thank you for joining us today, Lisa. And this is Sanjay Toure for Business RadioX.