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An Interview with DMS CEO – Robb Misso

Robb Misso has worked in manufacturing for over 25 years, co-founding the Austin Regional Manufacturer’s Association along the way. As CEO of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions, he has focused on bringing skilled labor jobs back to Central Texas from low-cost regions outside the United States. Mr. Misso believes in creating a work culture that empowers all […]

Innovative CEO, Robb Misso
Innovative CEO, Robb Misso

Robb Misso has worked in manufacturing for over 25 years, co-founding the Austin Regional Manufacturer’s Association along the way. As CEO of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions, he has focused on bringing skilled labor jobs back to Central Texas from low-cost regions outside the United States. Mr. Misso believes in creating a work culture that empowers all members of an organization, and he has been recognized for his compassionate, results-oriented leadership in this regard.

As the recipient of Austin’s “Recognize Good Award” honoring individuals for their contributions to local charity work, Mr. Misso has been instrumental in establishing DMS as a compassionate member of the greater Austin community. He has found unique ways to put the resources at DMS to philanthropic ends, donating to the Austin Humane Society and the Austin Literary Coalition, among several others.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

I was extremely fortunate to begin my career in the mid-90s working for Semitorr Associates in Boulder, Colorado.  I was quickly immersed in the Semiconductor, Tape Drive, and Disk Drive industries selling and supporting products used in the manufacturing of semiconductors and memory storage.  This gave me the opportunity to work in all areas of fabrication facilities providing a “drinking through a fire hose” education on technology.  I am very thankful to Tim Foster and Spence Lasley, the founders of SemiTorr, as they gave me my first job in the manufacturing world and have since become lifelong friends and mentors.  I think back on this time fondly; it was like the Wild West with all of the innovation and change.  Companies were willing to try new and upcoming technologies to get ahead. This ultimately opened the door for me to travel all over the world working with high-tech manufacturing companies. With all of the time I spent in manufacturing facilities I soon realized I wanted to be directly involved with manufacturing.   The idea of creating jobs and making products you can see, feel, and touch is very fulfilling.  

I was on a business trip in Helsinki, Finland and only a few years into my career, when I had a conversation with Spence that changed my life. I asked him, “Have you ever thought about starting a manufacturing business building product versus being a marketing and sales firm?”. He said “That’s a whole different deal. You have to have a lot more overhead including facilities, staff, and equipment. There is a lot more risk and a lot more expense.”  Even so, at that time the seed was planted in me.  

My excitement regarding manufacturing was greatly motivated by experiencing a time in which it was in vogue to outsource work to low-cost regions overseas, even when the landed cost made this more expensive with a lot more risk. I knew there had to be a better way of doing this, and we needed to create a business system that financially supports bringing the right work back to the United States and preferably Central Texas. I liked the idea of being able to build something that you can touch, see and feel. It is very motivating creating technology that helps move the world forward. With the help of a great team and many coaches along the way, this drove the idea of employing people to build systems that support the ecosystem of technology.    

Now the team members that entrust their livelihood with DMS is truly what professionally drives me.  We are all working together for a common purpose. Ever since the first-person, Jeff Markulec joined the DMS team until today, with hundreds of folks depending on us, it is very meaningful and substantial in many ways.  This is what inspires me to go to work every day.    

How do you make money?

We make money by providing our customers with fanatical customer support. 

To be more specific, we support our customers’ manufacturing needs using smart automation of processes and systems with the best team in the industry. We have become an expert at critical system welding and electrical assembly supporting the semiconductor, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas industries. We have been transitioning over the last few years from strictly a service-based company into also a product/technology-based company.  We provide added value to our customers by using the technologies and innovations we are developing. DMS will always have a very “Fanatical” Customer Support Focus. This is the “Brand” that supports our growth and allows us to add value and make money.  

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

It took 24 months of intentional investment in people, processes, and systems, including our facilities, to get DMS moving towards profitability. We spent the first two years setting up our processes, completing ISO audits, and getting the necessary systems in place to allow us to be scalable. Now our scalability is infinite; from one hundred million dollars per year to a billion dollars per year, we have the processes and systems in place to support our profitable growth.  We are now focused on lean initiatives and continuous improvement to further increase our profitability.    

When you were starting out, was there ever a time that you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle it?

I am an optimist to a fault…it’s just the way I am wired. There have been challenges, and there have been obstacles, but I always knew we would find a way to persevere. I’ve never doubted the success and future of DMS. The people we have working for our company are the absolute best in the industry. The best combination for success is when you have the right group of people, the right culture, and a clear vision.  I don’t believe there’s anything that’s going to stop you.

On the other hand, I now look back at points in time and challenges we faced and realize how fortunate we are that the path led us to where we are today, versus how things could have gone.  In the early days of DMS, we were often told our business plan would never work. There is just too much risk, and the manufacturing we were targeting was no longer viable in the United States.  I am really proud of our team proving those naysayers wrong.  I believe the Power of Perseverance should never be overlooked.  We have a team of professionals working for DMS, from the most entry-level to the most senior level, that never doubted we would be successful.  There are times it would have been easy to focus on the challenges, although we were all too busy focusing on visualizing success and making it happen.  

We have accomplished a lot, but we still have a long way to go.  

How did you get your first customer?

This is one of my favorite memories of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions to date. I scheduled our very first sales meeting with a potential customer and excitedly created a presentation showing who DMS was going to be.  Once I finished, the customer stepped back a moment and said, “Robb, let me get this straight. You’ve got an idea or at the most a business plan.  You have created a presentation, but you don’t have a building. You don’t have a staff or even a name for the business, and you’re not in a position to do anything today.” They said, “Come back to us when you have all these critical pieces in place, so you can truly support us as a supplier.” 

We did just that. 

This very large technology company took a chance on us, and we’ve done a great job supporting them for the last 8 years. We work as an extension of that company, and we’re incredibly loyal to that customer for having faith in giving us our first opportunity. 

What is one marketing strategy that you’re using that works well to generate new business?

From the day DMS opened its doors, we believe our team is our greatest asset. We take really good care of our employees and give them an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. If your employees are happy, they will be proud of where they work, and it will show both internally and externally.  When somebody comes into your facility or speaks to anyone in your company, this creates a culture that is pervasive and contagious.  Our most valuable employees are those skilled professionals that touch the product we build every day.  They drive our business, and the rest of us are here to support them.  Customers can see this when they walk through our facility, and this far outweighs any sales pitch.  The comradery is real and something that just cannot be fabricated.

We are having a lot of fun supporting the Dynamic Manufacturing Solution’s WHY:  Creating a great experience for our Employees, Customers, Suppliers, and the local community.  This is where marketing starts.  Your team has to believe in what you are doing and the “Why” behind the company before you can successfully market to customers outside of your four walls.  

We also embrace technology as a marketing strategy, “always looking for a better way.”  We’ve embraced technology even in the way we present our company. For example, we use an application that creates a three-dimensional representation of our company, products, and capability when we present.  It takes our customers on a journey showing them why we do what we do in addition to the what and how. 

We’ve also integrated high definition cameras throughout our manufacturing facilities. We’re able to provide our customers transparency and collaboration on projects we are supporting real time, while simultaneously managing the IP control, so they only see what is acceptable.  We also have incorporated telepresence robotics into our factory.  Our team can log a customer onto a robot and attend a meeting or observe our factory with controlled access as a DMS team member operates the robot to see our operation real time.  This provides a level of connectivity and trust in “what we say is what we do.” 

What is the toughest decision that you’ve had to make in the last few months?

The industry took a downturn mid simmer 2018, and we had to make some very difficult decisions that impacted our team. As we did not have anyone that was not an “A” player or someone I would not consider a part of the DMS Family, we prolonged the decision as long as we could.  Ultimately, we did the right thing at the right time and reduced our staff size. We’re in a very cyclical market although our push for market diversity made this reduction much smaller than it could have been.  As the industry started to turn back on, we’ve been hiring those very same individuals back. One of the greatest compliments we have had as a company is going through this process and when we reached out to individuals to come back, every single one of them wanted to. No one harbored animosity; every single employee we reached out to was eager to come back and join the team again. We’re in a market where there is almost no unemployment in our city, Austin, Texas. They could have easily said “No, thank you” or tried an opportunity elsewhere but they wanted to come back. This alone was an affirmation that we are doing the right things and we have the right culture. 

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I believe it is ultimately the team around me that makes me successful. As a company, it has been our ability to attract the best people who believe in our vision which has supported all the successes we have had and will continue to have in the future.

Once again, the success that I have personally is truly a result of the people in my life from my business partner Randy Rehmann, my coaches John Griffin and Bob Miner, to the DMS CCO Crystalee Modica, the DMS Team, and my supportive family and wife Kerry.    

Everyone that works for me truly knows I care about them and their families.  I am very compassionate but balance that with the understanding of the purpose of a business, “Making more money than we spend in a given period of time.”  I work to be transparent and do everything I can to create a trusting environment, so everyone is engaged with where we are heading as a company.    

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

One of the most satisfying moments for me is the transition of DMS from “underdog” in the industry to becoming one of the most critical suppliers. We are considered by some as the best supplier in our space in industries that are very demanding.  We have had many incredibly experienced and knowledgeable people tell us DMS was not going to make it because there’s so much risk for our customers moving to a new unproven supplier. When you build a gas delivery system supporting a customer in the semiconductor or pharmaceutical industries, there is a lot at stake. Today, we’re in almost every semiconductor fab in the world, and we support the Pharmaceutical Industry and Oil and Gas Industry with some of the most critical applications in their facilities. We’ve done that by building trust with our customers, however, there is always room for growth and improvement. 

A career-defining moment for me was the day that I “jumped without a parachute” into starting a manufacturing company. At that time, almost everyone thought I was crazy; the industry was at the very bottom of the market. Everyone believed the “sky was falling,” manufacturing was gone and was being moved overseas, and it’s never going to come back. It was at that moment I knew starting Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions was now or never. On no certain grounds, I left a very good, high paying job with a stable company to start DMS. It is very satisfying looking back at where we started. 

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

We are growing at a fast rate and continue to win new business. We’re adding capabilities focused on technology development to support our competitiveness as a manufacturing company.  We are always challenged to do what we do smarter than the competition with our competition relying heavily on cheap labor overseas as their strategy, often racing to the bottom on pricing.  At Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions, we are working on developing robotic automation around welding. We’re also working on developing new technologies utilizing AI on data acquisition supporting systems in the manufacturing environment and outside environments.  We’re leveraging our manufacturing expertise to develop new markets where we have some ownership in the technology being used giving us a competitive advantage in adding value to our customers.  

We will always have that manufacturing service element to our product offering. There truly is a need for companies to have manufacturing resources located in the United States who are able to build their products in an environment where their Intellectual Property is protected, and Quality Control and Safety are built into every product every day. 

We do a lot of high purity welding and critical gas delivery, and we’re putting effort into electrical design and electrical controls. That is a fast-growing market for us right now, and we are finding it a big opportunity to support more integrated solutions using both capabilities at a systems level.

I am most excited about where the DMS team is today.  Our team, our facilities, and our systems are all working at the very best of our game!!!  We have never been better, and I have never witnessed a company more prepared for growth and success.  We have them right where we want them!!!

What business books have inspired you?

Rocket Fuel, by Wickman and Winters takes the reader on a journey of defining the roles of the integrator and the visionary. It’s been a very influential book and has helped me come to grips with where my strengths lie and where my weaknesses desperately need a team with a balance of integrators to keep my focus on vision in check.  

Start with Why, by Simon Sinek summarizes how I felt from a marketing perspective. You have to understand that it’s not the ‘what’ or the ‘how,’ but it’s really the ‘why’ that makes a difference.  They are all important but if you can get your team behind your “Why” it is a very powerful feeling and makes success a lot more rewarding to everyone. 

Stephen Covey wrote a book called The Speed of Trust, which became a monumental tool for our team. I strongly believe everything rises and falls on leadership, as stated by John Maxwell, but you must have trust first; without it, you can’t have leadership, and without leadership, you simply will not succeed for long. 

I am a member of John Maxwell’s Executive Circle, which has given me exposure to many books and authors that have influenced my approach to management. Maxwell has written many outstanding books. A few of my favorites are, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, and The Five Levels of Leadership. If you were to browse my bookshelf, you would notice that I read more books by John Maxwell than any other author. He is by far my favorite author and very influential in my developing leadership style. I am very fortunate to meet with him in person a few times per year at his events.  He has a huge influence on my leadership and growth development. His teachings have inspired my practice of always trying to raise your lid, always growing ahead of the opportunities or challenges in front of you.  He is also an amazing speaker, and his ability to connect with everyone in a room is an art I will work to improve for the rest of my life. 

What is a recent purchase that you have made that’s helped with your business?

Funny enough, a coffee maker. I love coffee. I only have one vice – I drink probably too much coffee. I bought a Jura, which is a very well-made coffee maker that helps me get going every morning. I feel more productive and ready to face the day ahead of me after a cup of coffee.    It is also a Saturday morning ritual for my wife and I to have a cup of coffee together.  

Also, a purchase that today I do not think I could do my job without is my Apple iPad.  It is used in every meeting I attend for taking notes through a mind map application. I read books on it especially sitting on long flights.  I also use my iPad to run every presentation I give with a custom presentation application. We have actually developed a custom application to document our quality on our manufacturing floor using the iPad. Our manufacturing team logs into the iPad through barcode technology on the fabrication floor and then documents the build process on every system we build at each step allowing us to support process improvements and document requests by our customers.  From once looking at the iPad as a big iPhone that would never take off which was my first impression, to now being an integral part of our business is pretty cool!!!

Leave us with one point that few individuals know about your company.

One of the most influential people in my life is an extremely successful business person and in my definition of a true leader the best I have ever worked with, Randy Rehmann. He has given me a model of what a true leader is both in my professional and personal life.  When I had the idea of starting this company, he was one of the first people I shared my idea with. I discussed with him the concept of what was to become DMS over lunch in August of 2008.  We discussed the idea from a high level, and he cared as much about the “Why” as he did about anything else.  Just for the record, this was a year before Simon Sinek published his book, “Start with Why.”  Randy already understood what makes a company successful and how important leadership, culture, as well as hard work, are for success.  He arranged a meeting with his team at Dynamic Systems for me to present the idea of DMS; this meeting would be designed to ask many questions and attempt to find holes in the business plan.  With unfaltering support, he helped me fund the start of this business in early April 2009 and has been my partner through the good and bad over the last 10 years.  He always asks the right questions and knows how to motivate me more than any person I have worked with in my career.  I am motivated to make DMS a prosperous investment for him and his family more than anything else.  When I met with his attorneys to finalize the plans for DMS in early 2009, it was made very clear he didn’t need this opportunity from a business perspective; he was in a good place, and if anything, his attorney tried to talk him out of getting involved with this business venture due to potential risk. However, Randy looked at this as a way to pay forward the opportunity that had been given to him when his company, DSI was started.  He and his team were given a similar opportunity to start DSI in 1988, and they have grown it into a very successful business and an incredible place to work supporting many families. Randy is not only a dear friend but someone I consider family.  He was the first person to put his trust in DMS and is the reason the hundreds of families we support today have the life they do.  We are so blessed he saw DMS as his opportunity to pay it forward. 

We spend a lot of time at the office; more time than we spend at home during the work week. Something I think about a lot is the legacy of DMS. What do I want to see as the thing we are known and remembered for?  One day, I hope to be able to pay it forward just as it was done for the DMS team and me. I aim to help someone who has an idea or a concept and is trying to follow his or her dreams.  We have to keep growing DMS in whatever form it takes so we truly make a difference, not only for the future of our DMS families but to also utilize our success to make a difference in the lives of others outside of DMS.   

Learn more about Robb Misso and DMS by visiting the site: https://www.dmsusa.com

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